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Full text of "Community Media Review, Vol. 26, No. 4, Winter 2003"

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and then there were 

Media Consolidation 
Media Reform 

The Journal of the Alliance for Community Media < Winter 2003-2004 

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Dirk Koning, Chair 
Grand Ramus Community Media Cei 
Bob Devine, An tioch Couj;ge; Lauren 
Davitan. CCTV; Betry rrancis, Mown 
lege; Jeffrey Hansell, Malden Access Te 
JolmW. Higgins, Menlo Collegi 


lulie S. Omelchuck 


Tim Goodwin 


Bunnie Riedei, Executive Directt 
I leidi Grace, Government Ueiatiansi'Cniiim 
Felicia Brown, Memberskip/Opemti 
Margaret Wanca-DanieU, Advertising 



Paul Berg, Thomas Bishop, Alan Bushong, 
Frank Clark, Steve Fortriede, Alison Russell, 

DeeDee Halleck, Jennifer Harris, 
James Horwood, Sharon King, Jan Levine, 
Jim I .undue rg, Melissa Mills, Ruth Mills, 
Robert Neal, Steve Ranieri, Nancy Richard, 
NanLz Rickard, Debra Rogers, James C. Rossi, 
Jackie Steven, Brian Wilson 




Community Media Review [TSSN 3 074 -S( 
is publislied quarterly by the Alliance for Com- 
munity Media, Inc. Subscriptions $35 a year. 
J'lease send subscriptions, membersliips, 
address changes, advertising and editorial 
inquiries to the Alliance for Community Media, 
666 lith St. NW, Suite 740, Washington, DC 
20001-4542. Telephone 202.393,2650 voice, 
202.393.2653 fax. Email: acmirailiaiicccni.orgor 
visit the Alliance for Community Media website 

Requests for bulk orders considered in 
advance of publication. Contact the national 
office for rates and delivery. 

Copyright ©2004 by the Alliance for Com- 
munity Media, Inc. Prior written permission of 
the Alliance for Community Media required for 
all reprints or usage. 

Produced through the studios o f 


Upfront • pages 3-8 

Bunnie Riedei, Brian Wilson, Board of Directors 

Media Consoudation, Media Reform # Pages 9-43 

Introduction, Julie S. Omelchuck, 9 /Michael Copps: 
A Protector for the Marketplace of Ideas, Interview, 1 1 
/ Grassroots Media Steps in Where Corporations Fear 
to Tread, Martha Wallner, 15 / Access Tucson Builds 
Awareness, Creates Dialog, Sam Behrend, 17 / 
Tripping Up Big Media, Gal Beckerman, 18 / Minority Media: 
A Retrospective on the 40th Anniversary of the 
March on Washington, Andrea L, Taylor with Nor- 
ris Dickard, 21 / Globally Connected, Locally 
Active, Chuck Sherwood, 23 / Low Power Radio 
Takes Hold, Pete Tridish, 25 / When the Power 
Went Off, Local Commercial Radio Failed Listeners, David 
Ruhin, 26 / Warning: Free Trade Agreements May Be Hazardous 
to Your Media's Health, Bob Russell, 27 / Universal Community 
Access from Thin Air, Michael Calabrese and Matt Barranca, 28 / 
An Old Story with a New Twist, George Stoney, 30 / Access Chan- 
nels and the California Recall of 2003, Ron Cooper, 31 / Davis 
Community Television Steps Up When the Major Media Won't, 
Autumn Labbe-Renault, 31 / Wor Chester Station Offers Voice to 
Community, Mauro DePasquale, 32 / Technology Centers: Cata- 
lysts for Change, Stephen Davies, Andrew Wiley- Schwartz, Dr. Ran- 
dal D. Pinkett, Professor Lisa Servon, 33 / Democracy At Risk, 
Wade Henderson and Frank A. Blethen, 35 / National Spotlight on 
Our Local Fight, Senator Olympia 1. Snowe, 37 / 
The Alliance's Public Policy Committee, Greg 
EplerWood, 39 / A Mouse Roars in Oregon, Sue 
Diciple, 41 / K&n-"sa-l&-'dA-sh&n, Dirk Koning 
and Amy Goodman, 43 

On the Cover: In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news 
media in the U.S., according to Ben H. Bagdikian in the first edition of his book, Thk 
Media Monopoly, Beacon Press. By 2000, the number had fallen to six (The Mfdia 
Monopoly, sixth edition). Since then, the scope of mergers has expanded to include 
new media like the In ternet, and major distribution companies like Comcast Corp. 
On the cover, we have listed the 50 corporations from 1983 and highlighted the top 
seven media corporations in 2003 based on ownership of media outlets and content, 
and on annual net revenues. Cover design by Tim Goodwin. 


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The Importance of Being PEG 


Over the course of a week and a half, 
the Alliance office received nine requests 
for assistance from communities around 
the country. The issues included satellite, 
unionization, franchising, free speech 
and resources for adult learners and 
funding. Most of the people I spoke to 
had either been referred to us or found us 
by searching the web. These requests for 
specific assistance did not include the 
many other requests for publications, 
member assistance, conference and 
Hometown Video Festival information, 

During that same week and a half I 
gave three newspaper interviews and one 
radio interview. The topics ranged from 
free speech to emerging technology to 
media consolidation. The contacts we 
receive and the issues people want to dis- 
cuss and receive information on, contin- 
ue to tell me that Public, Educational and 
Government (PEG) access is growing 
throughout this country. There's an ener- 
getic pursuit of this medium in practical- 
ly every community across America. It is 
an exciting time for PEG and all who are 
involved in it! 

It is no accident that this interest in 
PEG coincides with the continuing con- 
solidation and deregulation of media, 
There is a direct corollary between the 
relentless collapse of diverse voices in 
mainstream media and a growing hunger 
for alternative media. 

The partnerships we have been able 
to forge over the past few years between 
the Alliance and representatives of local 
government (National League of Cities, 
National Association of Telecommunica- 
tions Officers and Advisors, National 
Conference of Mayors, etc.) have proven 
to me that more and more local govern- 
ments are understanding the importance 
of PEG to the well-being of their commu- 
nities. 1 also hear more and more govern- 
ment representatives express disdain for 
the bullying tactics of the telecommuni- 
cations industry (whether telephone or 
cable) . I think we will see dris trend grow 
as long as the telecommunications 

industry continues its cultural attitude of 

Interestingly enough, there also 
seems to be a governmental "grassroots" 
trickle-up movement afoot. While Con- 
gress and the Federal Communications 
Commission have been on a manic cru- 
sade to deregulate and remove control 
from local government, for quite some 
time, I have recently witnessed Congres- 
sional offices (both Republican and 
Democrat) react negatively, even angrily, 
to the arrogance of the media giants. And 
I have watched as various offices have 
heard their constituents loud and clear 
and miraculously advocated on our 
behalf (at times doing complete reversals 
on previously held positions). 

While this has energized many and 
given us hope, the challenges seem to 
multiply. How do we continue to make 
sure that PEG access will thrive and 
grow? How do minimize our defeats? 
How do we maximize our strengths? 

So much of this is not in the hands of 
the Alliance national office or the 
purview of any one organization or 
movement. Most of the responsibility- 
comes back to you at the grassroots level. 
When you are active in the community, 
when you are focusing on your mission, 
when you are on a first-name basis with 
your local elected officials, you are con- 
tributing to the health and well being of 
PEG throughout the country and to the 
message of "media democracy" for all. 
You are leading the movement for media 
reform every time you show up for work 
or volunteer at the access center or live- 
feed county council meetings. 

From the national perspective, I 
encounter your work every day. I can't tell 
you how many times I have had Congres- 
sional members mention your access 
centers or say that they had seen access 
programming when back in their dis- 
tricts. Every time I am able to make that 
connection with House or Senate mem- 
bers we get just a little bit stronger. 

The mission of PEG access is not lim- 
ited to television. Over 30 years, the PEG 

community has provided a successful 
paradigm for all forms of media, whether 
it is the Internet, radio, film, etc. The 
notion of setting something aside for the 
general public to participate in, and pro- 
viding the general public with education- 
al and democratic options, is no longer 
an experimental idea, it is a proven 

I know that PEG is frequently margin- 
alized, not just by our challengers, but 
also very often by our "friends." I get 
quite irritated at the marginalization 
because it is unfair to you and frankly it's 
just plain ignorant. What I do find amus- 
ing about these snipes and attacks is 
more times than not the snipers and 
attackers are trying to figure out how to 
take what we have (channels, money, 
etc.) 1 can't count the times I've had a 
big-shot producer sitting in my office 
pitching a four-hour-a-day, five-day-a- 
week block of programming that is going 
to "put access on the map." Then there's 
the computing club that wants our fran- 
chise fees to open an Internet cafe. And 
my personal favorite is how many times 
Public Broadcasting has made a run at 
our channels. Add to these the various 
Washington telecommunications policy 
tanks and consumer groups who've sud- 
denly decided they are going to teach us 
how to negotiate franchise agreements! 
While the latter may not necessarily be 
after our money, they create these paper 
schemes in order to access the largess of 
national foundation grants. 

Your success in creating a medium 
that educates, provides opportunity for 
democratic engagement and a platform 
for free speech, has put you at the fore- 
front of the media democracy movement 
and provides a powerful example for oth- 
ers to follow. You should be very, very 
proud of yourselll 

Bunnie Riedei is executive director of the 
Alliance for Community Media. Contact her 
a t briedeldPaliiancecin. org 


Brian Wilson Chair, At Large 

City and Country of San Francisco 

875 Stevenson, 5 th floor 

San Francisco, CA 94103 

Voice: 415.554.0894 / Fax: 415.554.0854 


Frank Clark Vice Chair 

Ci IIaH Strategic Planning Chair 

801 Plum St., Room 28 

Cincinnati, OH 45202 

Voice: 513.352.5307 / Fax: 513.352.5347 


Nancy Richard Treasurer 

Plymouth Area Community Access Television 

130 Court Street Hear 

Plymouth, MA 02360 

Voice: 508.830.6999 / Fax 508.830.9666 


Ruth Mills Secretary/Fundraising Chair 

Whitewater Community Television 

c/o Indiana University East 

2325 Chester Blvd. 

Richmond, IN 47374 

Voice: 765.973.8488 / Fax: 765.973.8489 


Regional Chairs & Representatives 

Central States Chair 
Chair of Chairs 

Tom Bishop 

Media Bridges Cincinnati 
1100 Race St. 
Cincinnati, OH 45202 
Voice: 513.651.4171 / Fax: 513.651.1106 

Alison Fussell Southeast Chair 

People TV, Inc. 

190 14th St. NW 

Atlanta, GA 303 18-7802 

Voice: 404.873.6712 / Fax: 404.874.3239 


Jim Lundberg Midwest Chair 

Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission 

4071 Sunset Drive 

Spring Park, MN 55384 

Voice: 952.471.7125 


Robert Neal Northwest Chair 

1108 N. Cedar St. 

Tacoma, WA 98406 

Voice: 253.756.1667 


Steve Ran ieri Western States Representative 

_ „ International Chair 

Quote.. .Unquote, Inc. 

POBox 26206 

Albuquerque, NM 87125 

Voice: 505.243.0027 / Fax 505.346.1635 

Debra Rogers Northeast Representative 
Conference Planning Chair 

Falmouth Community Television 

310 Dillingham Ave. ' 

Falmouth, MA 02540 

Voice: 508.457.0800 / Fax: 508.457.1604 



fames C. Rossi, Jr. Mid-Atlantic Chair 


243 South Allen St., Suite 336 

State College, PA 16801 

Voice: 814.238.5031 / Fax: 814.238.5368 


Sharon King Southwest Chair 

Dallas Community Television 
1253 Roundtable 
Dallas, TX 75247 

Voice: 214.631.5571 / Fax: 214.637.5342 

Ad Hoc Committees 

Paul Berg Organizational Development 

Newton Communications Access Center, Inc. 

POBox 610192 

Newton, MA 02461 -0192 

Voice: 617.965.7200 xl7/ Fax: 617.965.5677 



DeeDee Halleck 
Viewing Habits 
PO Box 89 

Willow, NY 12495-0050 
Voice: 212.473.8933 

Steven Fortriede 

Allen County Public Library 

200 E. Berry St. 

Fort Wayne, IN 46802 

Voice: 260.421.1205 / Fax: 260.421.1386 


Jan Levine 

San Francisco Community Television 
415 Highland Ct. 
Clyde, CA 94520 

Voice: 415.575.4942 / Fax: 415.575.4945 

Melissa Mills 

280 Leo St. 
Dayton, OH 45404 

Voice: 937.223.5311 / Fax: 937.223.2345 

Jaclcie Steven 

Arlington Independent Media 
2701 C Wilson Blvd. 
Arlington, VA 22201 

Voice: 703.524.2388 / Fax: 703.908.9239 

Discretionary Appointees 

Alan Bushong Board Development 

Capital Community Television Personnel 

PO Box 2342 

Salem, OR 97308-2342 

Voice: 503.588.2288 / Fax: 503.588.6424 


Jennifer Harris Equal Opportunity Chair 


711 Bridge St. NW 

Voice: 616.459.4788 / Fax: 616.459.3970 

James Horwood Legal Affairs Appointee 

Spiegel & McDIarmid 

1333 New Hampshire Ave. NW 

Washington, DC 20036 

Voice: 202.879.4002 / Fax: 202.393.2*366 


Nantz Rickard 


901 Newton St. NE 

Washington, DC 20017 

Voice: 202.526.7007 / Fax: 202.526.6646 


Additional Contacts (not board members) 

Ron Cooper, Western Region Chair 
Voice: 916.456.8600 

Jeff Hansell, Northeast Region Chair 
Voice: 781.321.6400 

'Talk Amongst Yourselves...' 

Information, resources, networking 
and national office announcements 
are available day or night. The Alliance 
hosts three Ustservs to help you: 

The Access Forum list is open to anyone inter- 
ested in community access. To sign-up, inter- 
ested persons should send a message to: 

The Alliance Announce list is open only to 
members of the Alliance for Community Media. 
Members should send a request to: alliance- 
announce- subscribe® 

To subscribe to the Alliances' 
Equal Opportunity list, send an email to 
After subscribing you may write messages to: 

Useful Contacts 

Alliance for Community Media 
666 1 lth St. NW, Suite 740 
Washington, DC 20001-4542 
202,393.2650 voice / 202.393.2653 fax 

Federal Communications Commission 
The Portals 
445 12th St. SW, Washington, DC 20024 
202.418.0200 voice / 202.418.2812 fax 

Your Federal Legislators 

The Honorable 

United States Senate, Washington, DC 20515 

The Honorable 

United States Llouse of Representatives 
Washington, DC 20510 
or call 202,224.3121 
on the web at 


Are You Being Served? 


There is a well circulated story about 
Federal Communications Commission 
Chairman Powell on the eve of his 
appointment to his new role, waiting for 
the Angel of Public Interest to descend 
and enlighten him. The angel never 
arrived he said. It's a little like the story of 
the man who stayed in his home during 
the flood because God would protect 
him. Chairman Powell failed to embrace 
his new appointment to be that of the 
Guardian Angel of Public Interest. And 
recently, in reference to the growing pub- 
lic concern over media consolidation, he 
responded that he didn't understand 
what the concern was about, after all, for 
years there were only three networks. 

What Chairman Powell has failed to 
recognize is that for decades, while there 
may have been only three major televi- 
sion networks, the networks themselves 
were limited to the number of owned- 
and-operated stations they had and that 
the bulk of those "networks" were local 
affiliates, each owned by someone else, 
each with a local news division, locai 
sports, educational and public service 
programming. Further, the chairman for- 
got to mention that the FCC and federal 
government, in their infinite wisdom, rec- 
ognized that there needed to be an outlet 
for public programming without com- 
mercial interests. Hence the creation of 
PBS. Who knew it would become, in part, 
the syndicated programming outlet for 
the BBC. So all of this begs the question, 
why isn't Chairman Powell asking the 
American public, "Are you being served?" 

This past year, FCC Commissioners 
Adelstein and Copps certainly were ask- 
ing that question by hosting a number of 
public hearings and forums across the 
nation. And the response was overwhelm- 
ing, creating a grassroots movement to 
reshape media and certainly fight back 
the incoming tide of media consolidation. 
And following a summer of "unrest," fly- 
ing in the face of public opposition and 
over two million public comments, the 
FCC raised the bar on media ownership 
in favor of business, with only Adelstein 

And so Chairman Powell is still like the devout believer 
in the flood waiting for God to save him, and when faced 
with his maker, he asks, why wasn't I saved? Where is the 
Angel of Public Interest? 

and Copps voting against it. 

In a January 19 article in Cahlewodd, 
writer Steve Fffros predicted that when 
Congress returned to Washington, its 
focus would be the fight over media con- 
solidation and first up, ownership caps. 
And he was right as Congress decided to 
accept the White House compromise 
between the old and the new and stipu- 
late for 39 percent, instead of 35 percent. 
After all this wasn't the FCC's 45 percent, 
but it still allowed CBS and Fox to keep 
some properties rather than to have to 
shed them. 

Recently, in an effort to appear "politi- 
cally correct," Chairman Powell began 
hosting his own set of hearings to hear 
what the public has to stay about its 
interests. Was it just by accident he start- 
ed in the hometown of Clear Channel? 

Mr. Effros continued his look into the 
crystal ball and further predicted that the 
media concentration theme will continue 
throughout this year, allowing those con- 
cerned to raise the issue. Digital cable 
carriage rules are due to come up before 
the FCC, as well as Congress. Then there 
is debate over localism, especially with 
Ruppert Murdoch's acquisition of Direct 
TV And Diane Mermigas in TVWeek, Jan- 
uary 5, said," Media companies are brac- 
ing for better days and bigger deals in 
2004. The bottom line is another wave of 
consolidation transactions making the 
big even bigger is a no brainer." So I guess 
we need to brace ourselves as well. 

But I started this column by asking, 
are you being served? Apparently not. 
Martha WaHner wrote for the Media 
Alliance, referring to the FCC vote to raise 
the ownership cap, "this was not the first 
FCC proceeding to favor big business and 
media consolidation, but it was the first, 

in many years, to be met by a massive 
grassroots response. According to Sena- 
tor John McCain, chair of the Senate 
Commerce Committee, which oversees 
the FCC, 'this sparked more interest than 
any issue I've seen that wasn't organized 
by a huge lobby.'" And Ms. Wallner goes 
further to explore how the concept of 
public interest has been morphed into 
consumer interest or "efficient market- 
place." This dynamic shift signifies the 
change in political power between public 
and consumer/ corporate domination of 
the process.' 

As always I look forward to what the 
contributors in this issue of CMS. have to 
share. I was thrilled to learn that even in 
the Clear Channel hometown, the gener- 
al public was not afraid to come forward 
and stake its claim to the "public air- 
waves." And so Chairman Powell is still 
like the devout believer in the flood wait- 
ing for god to save him, and when faced 
with his maker, he asks, why wasn't I 
saved? Where is the Angel of Public Inter- 
est? Well Chairman Powell, you heard 
from hundreds of the angel's messengers 
in San Francisco last April, and thou- 
sands more in communities across the 
country. You heard from them as they 
gathered in Madison last November and 
again last week. So as God answered the 
man, we say to you Mr. Chairman, "how 
many messages do you need?" 

i What the FCC is going an? Martha 
Wallner, Media Alliance, October. 2003 

Brian Wilson is chair of the Alliance for 
Community Media and a former PEG ED 
and curren tly a public policy, planning and 
compliance analyst for the City and County 
of San Francisco. 

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New BA Degree in Community Media 
and Technology at UMass Boston 

by Fred Johnson 

The University of Massa- 
chusetts Community Media 
and Technology Program will 
begin offering a Bachelor of 
Arts degree in community 
media and technology. The pro 
gram is part of the College of 
Public and Community Service 
[CPCS] at UMass Boston, a col- 
lege founded on a 
vision of activist 
education and 
learning in pursuit 
of social justice. 
The CMT Program's 
approach is ground' 
ed in the strong democratic 
philosophies of social theorist 
and educators such as Paulo 
Freire, John Dewey and Antonio 
Gramsci, who many in the 
cable access world will find 

The core of the program is a 
s elf - paced , compe tency- based, 
outcome-oriented curriculum 
in which prior learning is vali- 
dated and collaborative proj- 
ects are encouraged. Students 
are encouraged to become 
socially and politically active 
through partnerships with 
activists, community media and 
technology organizations, non- 
profit organizations, labor 
unions and others. Because 
curriculum is competency- 
based, academic credit is 
awarded for prior learning and 
independent, project-based 
learning initiatives taking place 
in community organizations. 
There is also a free-standing 
certificate in community 
media, online, through a web- 
based curriculum. 

The CPCS Community 
Media and Technology Program 
is positioned to play a unique 
role in broadening the dialogue 
in community media and tech- 
nology, as well as providing 
research, professional develop- 
ment and training. One critical 
area in which faculty and stu- 

! dents will concentrate is the 

proliferation of "place-based" 
| media and communications 
initiatives now coming into 
existence globally in response 
to media globalization. The 
CMT Program will undertake 
research and convene seminars 
that encourage common lan- 
guage and collaborations in the 
area of policv forma - 


ffijJJ Medio & Technology 

tion and organizing among 
these diverse efforts. 

The Curriculum. The Com- 
munity Media and Technology 
degree is a liberal arts baccalau- 
reate degree with a career 
focus. The CPCS curriculum is a 
competency-based, develop- 
mental curriculum comprised 
of four levels. To earn a bac- 
calaureate degree, students 
must complete 120 credits. 
Work in the CMT major 
accounts for 30 credit hours. 

Directly related to the new 
major are the CPCS "Core 
Knowledge and Skills" require- 
ments, which include a compe- 
tency in Media Literacy, as well 
as more indirectly related com- 
petencies in Exploring Culture, 
Exploring Community, and 
Public and Community Action. 

Learning activities include 
History of Mass Communica- 
tion, Networked Communica- 
tion, Analyzing Media, Media 
and Community Building, Writ- 
ing for Media, Production, 
Media/Technology Policy, 
Developing a Media/Technolo- 
gy Strategy, and Implementing 
a Media/Technology Strategy. 

For details on the CMT Pro- 
gram at UMass Boston, contact 
j Fred Johnson at 61 7.287.7174, 
or at 

media consolidation 
media reform 

/jf\ stepped out of the November, zero degree wind chill in Madison, Wisconsin, I was con- 
/ M fr° nte d with 1,500 warm bodies crammed into an auditorium at the University who had 
■ ' ' gathered for the 2003 Free Press National Con ference on Media Reform. I was overwhelmed. 
, %*y I realized, maybe truly for the first time, that we — PEG access activists — were part of a 
much larger movement to address corporate media domination of voices and information in our commu- 
nities. People had come from all over the country, from all different perspectives, to seriously examine crit- 
ical issues threatening the free marketplace of ideas that is a taproot of the American democratic system. 

And what was the issue creating this critical mass of activism? Vertical and horizontal ownership of 
media and communications outlets by fewer and fewer mega-corporations. The lines are quickly disap- 
pearing between distribution and content, between news and 
entertainment, between national and international media 
policy decisions, between "public domain" and copyright 
infringement, between news reporting and propaganda. This 
consolidation is reaching levels and impacting areas never 
before considered. 

But, as FCC Commissioner Michael Copps says, the public finally gets it. And the general public— along 
with a variety of interest groups — is responding with an unanticipated outcry that has taken even the most 
seasoned politicians and policymakers off guard. 

The media reform conference helped me connect the dots among the different aspects of concentra- 
tion of media ownership. The CMR Editorial Board and I hope that this CMR will help you connect the 
dots and better understand how the mission and purpose of our access work ties so closely to others who 
are activating to ensure that people, as individuals, have access to communications technology and the 
diversity of information and voices necessary to have meaningful discourse so fundamental to democracy. 
This edition presents a wide range of media concentration issues and some perspectives about how com- 
munity access television fits within the broader context of media reform. It's a sampling, however. We have 
also included websites, books and other resources for you to pursue. 

So, what can we do... we can "Seize the Moment" 1 , use and promote com- 
munity access as a model for media reform, and leverage fran- Medil 
chise renewal processes as a way for communities to organize 
around broader issues of local control, diversity of voices, and com- 
munity access to communications technology. 

In closing, I would like to thank the contributing authors and 
the CMR Editorial Board, all of whom volunteered their time and 
expertise for this CMR. Special thanks go to Rebecca Gibbons, 
who provided many hours of valuable research and support, and 
CMR Managing Editor Tim Goodwin, who counseled and consoled 
me along the way. 

i In These Times, Nov. 17, 2003, by Susan Douglas, Dawn of a New Media? 

Julie S. Omelchuck is the assistant director for the Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Portland, Oregon. 
She began her media activism in the early 1980s while attending Journalism school at the University of Montana. 
She worked at the Alliance national office for three years and has served on the Alliance National Board. 



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Michael Copps: A Protector 
of the Marketplace of Ideas 

CC Commissioner Michael Copps 
has become a champion For 
bringing back localism, diversity 
and competition to the federal decision- 
making process regarding media consoli- 
dation. Unfortunately he is in the minori- 
ty. The FCC continues to favor more cor- 
porations controlling more media, evi- 
denced by its recent attempt to allow a 
single corporation to own TV stations 
that reach 45 percent of U.S. households 
and permit common ownership of TV 
stations and newspapers in the vast 
majority of local markets. 

Following is a summary of a Commu- 
nity Media Review interview with the 
Commissioner on September 25, 2003, in 
Washington, DC. CMR also drew on 
Copps' keynote remarks at the 2003 
National Association of Telecommunica- 
tion Officers and Advisors Conference 
and his panel presentation at the Nation- 
al Conference on Media Reform in 
November 2003 to provide a more com- 
prehensive overview of the topics dis- 

CMR: What do you think elevated the 
media consolidation issue to a national 

MC: It was grassroots action. A lot of peo- 
ple in Washington, DC believed the grass- 
roots movement would splinter and frac- 
ture, but it didn't. They stayed together: 
they went to court together; they went to 
Congress together; they got action in 
both Houses; and they are still together. 
This is a grassroots issue and a bi-parti- 
san issue. Industry and big media lobbies 
in Washington, DC. But Congress went 
home over summer break and heard 
from their communities. The man on the 
street gets it. Congress came back angry 
about the process and responding to its 
constituents. Estimated conservatively— 
2.3 million Americans commented on the 
FCC rule. The issue is here to stay. 

CMR: What do you see as the relevance 
of community media in the current envi- 
ronment of media consolidation and 
cross ownership? 

MC: Community media is relevant in a 
couple specific ways. Community media 
has kept the media consolidation issue 
alive. Big media is not reporting on 
media consolidations and the related 
impacts on our communities and our 
ability to use technology to communicate 
openly and freely. Initially, there was vir- 
tually no network coverage of the issue 
until the networks were shamed into 
some two-minute spots. The mainstream 
media coverage was nothing like it 
should be. Big media should be running 
stories about the town meetings and 
investigating the impact that media con- 
solidation has on our democracy. But it's 
been alternative media outlets covering 
those stories. 

Community media also plays a role 
by keeping localism and diversity alive. 
Folks working in local community media 
are leading by example. They reflect and 
practice the values of localism and diver- 
sity that the FCC and Congress are sup- 
posed to protect. 

CMR: How do you see the "localism" 
issue playing itself out at the FCC? 

MC: Localism needs to become the direct 

focus of my colleagues at the FCC. First, 
we need to develop a record and Find out 
if people really think the public interest is 
being served by the current lay of the 
land, media and program wise. Then 
relate it to a real world regulatory process 
like radio and television license renewals. 
The FCC should then use that record to 
make its decisions on license renewals. I 
believe if we build a solid record, the 
entire FCC would Take the initiative to 
support localism and diversity. 

Another aspect of localism is in the 
regulatory structure. The FCC Chairman 
seems to be headed toward national reg- 
ulation and away from state and local 
regulatory structures. I'm interested in 
preserving localism in the regulatory 
structures as well. 

CMR: Can we ever hope to have support 
for a full range of public interest benefits 
across all different forms of electronic 
media transmission technologies — from 
satellite (especially DBS) to broadcast 
(radio and TV) to cable TV to broadband 
Internet to wireless transmission? 

MC: My whole direction is to encourage 
diversity by using all of those outlets. I 
believe the FCC is mandated by the law 
to do that. To a great extent, and through 
community media's efforts, we've secured 
public interest setasides on cable TV and 
DBS. The Commission can look at new 
ways to preserve diversity and encourage 
multiple sources of information on other 
technologies. I'm trying to tee up some of 
these questions in the context of the 
transition to digital TV Previous work of a 
Presidential panel of industry and con- 
sumer groups resulted in about nine 
ideas about public interest obligations of 
DTV I'm trying to dust off those ideas. 
The FCC Chairman has done a lot of 
good things to encourage the transition 
to DTV but there is a big gap between 
what commercial interests can do with 
the technology and about what the pub- 
lic interest obligations should be. 

Unfortunately, the FCC has been 
making discrete decisions that are mov- 
ing in the wrong direction for localism, 






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diversity and competition. In a time when 
we have so many important technologies, 
that can open so many doors and provide 
people access to so many things that 
enhance democratic dialogue and enrich 
our communities, the FCC has moved 
toward allowing a few big companies to 
own the whole ball of wax: local TV sta- 
tions, newspapers., production studios., 
cable companies, Internet access— all of 
these new liberating technologies. What's 
die result when one group has control 
over product and distribution? MONOP- 
OLY. Concentration and closed access are 
breathing down the necks of the Internet. 
That once wonderful open and free sys- 
tem is under siege too. 

CMR: One of the barriers to localism and 
diversity of voices in media relates more 
to funding than pure capacity. For exam- 
ple, on DBS there is a capacity setaside 
but it's an unfunded mandate of sorts in 
that the local PEG programmers have to 
pay for the time and the technology to get 
programming on the satellite. As a result, 
the promise of localism and diversity has 
not been fulfilled on satellite TV. 

MC: I'm a big believer in industry contri- 
butions for bandwidth and funding for 
PEG access channels. I'm worried about 
an industry trend of walking away from 
these commitments. They are in the 
statute and in the best interest of our citi- 
zens to retain and grow these channels. 
The more media consolidation, the more 
essential the local channels become if we 
are going to keep localism and diversity. 

CMR: What suggestions do you have for 
community access and local media advo- 
cates to better influence federal decision- 
making on media concentration issues? 

MC: The FCC is making a little bit of 
progress but community media advocates 

really need to energize the debate with 

Local advocates must build a record 
on what alternative and community 
media has done: Collect and tell your 
local stories. Secondly, figure out new and 
innovative ways to support this initiative. 
Focus strategies toward the future instead 
of criticizing past actions. 

And also, continue to use local, alter- 
native media outlets to raise questions 
about media ownership. Many communi- 
ties have die tools and the channels to 
elevate discussion about the issues. We 
need a national dialogue on this issue 
and community media can play a big role 
in providing people with balanced infor- 
mation. As we've seen, when people 
become aware of the issues, there's no 
question about how important they think 
this issue is. They want the FCC or Con- 
gress to do something to protect their air- 
waves. The American people are perfectly 
capable of making up there own minds. 

The most important thing to remem- 
ber about the FCC fight is that this is no 
longer the FCC fight but America's fight. 
It's a critical matter of public policy. 1 
believe the issue is keyed up now where 
it's approaching critical mass with poten- 
tially huge public support. But this battle 
is far from over. We've got the momen- 
tum. Truth and justice— we have going for 
us. Still it's an uphill battle — a work in 
progress. The future is now, seize the day, 
don't let this issue drift, and fade. I think 
we can be successful because we have the 
commitment, the dedication and desire 
to do it. 

This article was compiled by Bunnie 
Riedel, executive director, Alliance for Com- 
munity Media, and CMR Guest Editor-in- 
Chief Julie S. Omelchuck, assistan t director, 
Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, 
Portland, OR. 

The Need to 
Rebuild a Public 
Interest Movement 

"The industry knows what it wants 
and has an agenda. We need to create an 
agenda and reframe the issues to reflect 
a democratic and public interest per- 
spective that we want. Industry is 
opposed to ISP choice; opposed to priva- 
cy policy so they can collect the data that 
is at the heart of the interactive advertis- 
ing system; opposed to policies on intel- 
lectual property that would allow the 
public interest to retain some control 
over information; opposed to policies 
that would allow communities to control 
some of their own bandwidth, etc. We 
need to develop strategies and act early 
to create public policy. The whole idea of 
localism was undermined from the 
beginning. Let's not repeat that mistake 
again. We need to rebuild a public inter- 
est movement. Focus on emerging infra- 
structure to see how it supports commu- 
nity interests. What we need to do: [we] 
can't let cable and telecom companies 
determine how our digital destiny 
evolves. Ask how much capacity do you 
intend to provide, what are your busi- 
ness models. Pose questions and 
demand public input and access." 

- Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center 
for Digital Democracy, addressing the 
National Conference on Media Reform in 
Madison, Wisconsin, November 2003 

"1 think people have been working on 
this separately in a segmented fashion 
for a longtime — local cable access, open 
access on cable systems, open access for 
internet providers, minority ownership. 
So the ideas have been there — we just 
need to unify the platform now that the 
ownership issue has raised the interest 
and visibility." 

- Gene Kimmelman, Director, 
Consumers Union, addressing the 
National Conference on Media Reform in 
Madison, Wisconsin, November 2003 

Community Media Review 

Call for Contributions • Summer 
The Summer 2004 issue of Community Media Review is titled 

New Media, New Methods 

The goal of the issue is to profile old and new media and methods that have 
a positive social impact on community. If you have an idea or would like to con- 
tribute in some way to the issue, please contact Dirk Koning at, 
or call 616.459.4788. 


Free Speech TV 



Democracy Now! 

Current Affairs • International Politics 
Environmentalism • Arts & Culture 

Why Vote? 
Election 2004 Special Reports 

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Grassroots Media Steps in Where 
Corporations Fear to Tread 

by Martha Wallner 

an Francisco's skies were a brilliant 
,, | blue on Saturday, April 26, 2003, and 
\_ J yet over 500 people chose to spend 
the day inside, attending a public hearing 
at city hall on media concentration and 
the Federal Communications Commis- 
sion's ownership rules. With the excep- 
tion of independent commercial broad- 
caster KRON, a former ABC affiliate, no 
commercial media covered the hearing. 
Alternative media played a critical role in 
ensuring the community heard about 
this important issue. 

This hearing, like the others held 
across the country, drew a packed audi- 
ence and provided a forum for the range 
of perspectives that had been rendered 
inaudible and invisible by mainstream 
media coverage. In fact, prior to the hear- 
ing, Media Alliance, the nonprofit that 
organized the hearing, contracted with a 
professional publicist with a great track 
record in generating coverage of events. 
Despite this, the press release and press 
briefing received a chilly reception from 
mainstream outlets. 

The media response, or lack of 
response in this case, demonstrates the 
mainstream media's blatant conflict of 
interest in covering media policy. Via- 
com/CBS, News Corp/Fox, GE/NBC, and 
Disney/ABC and the nation's leading 
newspaper chains have led the efforts to 
loosen the FCC's ownership rules. A joint 
statement filed with the FCC by Fox, NBC 
and Viacom, contends, "There is no 
longer any public interest served by the 
commission's ownership rules." Clearly, 
the media gatekeepers determined that 
coverage of the public opposition to their 
view was not in their interest. 

The word did get out due to the 
tremendous response from alternative 
media. Tn the weeks before the hearing, 
The San Francisco Bay Guardian! an 
independent daily, ran an article and an 
editorial, and the Pacific News Service, 
serving ethnic media throughout the 
state, provided a news analysis on con- 
solidation. The day before the hearing, 

It's important to 
remember that while 
fighting against corporate 
media consolidation, we 
must also defend and 
expand the policies that 
protect independent, non- 
commercial media. 

Working Assets Radio featured FCC Com- 
missioner Jonathan Adelstein on the San 
Francisco School Board's station KALW. 
Community radio broadcasters, KPOO 
and KPFA, provided gavel-to-gavel, live 
coverage of the hearing throughout the 
Bay Area and, via KFCF, in the Central 

San Francisco's activist web portal 
Indymedia, linked with independent 
media centers throughout die world, pro- 
vided streaming audio on the internet. 
WorldLink TV, available on direct broad- 
cast satellite television (as part of the 
mandated DBS set-asides for non-com- 
mercial programming), prodttced a two- 
hour special on consolidation, referenc- 

ing the San Francisco hearings. Public 
access television producers provided cov- 
erage on EATV, the educational access 
channel, Access SF, die public access 
channel, Berkeley Community Media, 
and Cable Channel 26, serving Marin 
County just North of San Francisco. 

The hearing was kicked off by Matt 
Gonzalez, president of the San Francisco 
Board of Supervisors. FCC Commissioner 
Adelstein and Ben Bagdikian, former 
Dean of U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School 
of Journalism, spoke, followed by three 
panels and three public comment peri- 

Alternative media's showing in this 
case illustrates the powerful role that 
grassroots organizing and alternative 
media can play in covering important 
issues largely ignored by commercial 
media. It's important to remember that 
while fighting against corporate media 
consolidation, we must also defend and 
expand the policies that protect inde- 
pendent, non-commercial media. 

Martha Wallner is a long-time media 
activist and one of the organizers of the pub- 
lic hearing on media consolidation in San 
Francisco. Her email address is 
Martha w@lm i. net. 

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Access Tucson Builds Awareness, Creates Dialog 
with Visit by Democracy NowFs Amy Goodman 

by Sam Behrend 

is mainstream media 
companies move further 
I away from providing 
alternative and diverse view- 
points critical to our communi- 
ties and to democracy, Public 
access centers have bolstered 
their role as facilitators and dis- 
tributors of independently-pro- 
duced and community works. 
Access Tucson has used two very 
important sources of such work, 
Free Speech TV (FSTV) and one 
of its independently-produced 

programs, Democracy Now!, to not only promote communi- 
ty dialog on important issues, but also to boost awareness 
of the access channels as a critical, local information 

FSTV while not necessarily programming produced by a 
community member, is curated, 'best-of ' independent and pub- 
lic access programming. The Alliance, formerly NFLCP, tried for 
years to create a similar circulation of video using bicycling and 
cataloging techniques. In 1985, Access Tucson and six other cen- 
ters formed the Seven Cities Project in which each of the centers 
cu rated a diverse group of locally produced programs and sent 
them around to the other six centers. Alliance Regions have 
expended time and energy creating catalogs of local program- 
ming to encourage bicycling. These approaches did not have 
long-term success because of the difficulties inherent to them. 

Free Speech TV was founded in 1995, but its roots extend 
back to The 90's public television show and The 90's Channel on 
cable television, both of which were founded in 1989. From 1995 
to 2000, FSTV provided weekly programming via videotape to a 
network of 50 community cable channels. In 2000, FSTV realized 
its goal of launching the first national progressive television net- 
work when it was awarded a full-time satellite channel on DISH 
Network as a result of the Federal Communications Commission 

policy to set aside a small per- 
centage of satellite channels for 
public interest use. Access cen- 
ters can encourage local produc- 
ers to submit their work to FSTV 
for distribution. 

Democracy Now! is a cen- 
terpiece, weekday news program 
on FSTV hosted by award- 
winning journalists Amy 
Coodman and Juan Gonza- 
lez. Access Tucson and KXCI 
community radio both carry 
the program. In October 
2003, Access Tucson used 
the popularity of Goodman 
to promote the access chan- 
nels to a broader communi- 
ty radio audience. Access 
Tucson and KXCI co-spon- 
sored Goodman for a speaking 
engagement in Tucson. With little advance notice and promo- 
tion primarily bookending the Democracy Now! program on 
KXCI and Access Tucson, a capacity crowd of 2,400 showed up. 
Most of the attendees knew Democracy Now! from radio and rel- 
atively few were aware that the program was also carried on 
public access television. During her presentation, Goodman 
promoted the value of community television and radio. 

Working in partnership with the community radio station 
brought many hundreds of new viewers to Access Tucson. These 
are viewers who will take action to advance and protect public 
access when it is challenged. These fans are Access Tucson's 
newest, best friends. 

Sam Behrend is executive director of Access Tucson in Tucson, Ari- 
zona. He can be contacted at Free Speech TV 
can be reached via the Internet at Democ- 
mcy Now! is available at 



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Tripping Up Big Media 

One of the strangest Left-Right coalitions in recent memory has 
challenged a free-market FCC. Wliat's the glue that holds it together? 

by Gal Beckerman 

tie angels of the public interest, 
^v"/ with large pink wings and glitter- 
>■' ■ inghalos, descended on Michael 
Powell this fall, five years after he had, 
somewhat sarcastically, first invoked 

That was back in April 1998, when 
Powell was speaking to a Las Vegas gath- 
ering of lawyers. Only a few months had 
passed since his appointment to one of 
the five spots on the Federal Communi- 
cations Commission, and the new com- 
missioner had been invited to speak 
about a longstanding and contentious 
issue: Was it the FCC's responsibility to 
keep the media working toward the pub- 
lic good? Powell made clear that he 
placed his faith in the invisible hand of 
the market: the business of the FCC, he 
said, was to resolve "matters that pre- 
dominantly involve the competing inter- 
ests of industry" and not some vague 
"public interest." The FCC had no role in 
deciding whether to give free airtime to 
presidential candidates, for example, or 
in forcing television channels to carry 
educational or children's programming. 
"Even if what is portrayed on television 
encourages or perpetuates some societal 
problem, we must be careful in invoking 
our regulatory powers," Powell insisted. 

To highlight the point, Powell used 
biblical imagery. "The night after I was 
sworn in, I waited for a visit from the 
angel of the public interest," Powell said. 
"I waited all night, but she did not come. 
And, in fact, five months into this job, I 
still have had no divine awakening." 

September 4, 2003 the angels finally 

Fifteen women dressed entirely in flu- 
orescent pink and spreading frilly wings 
emblazoned with the words "Free 
Speech" stood on the sidewalk outside 
the large glass doors of the FCC. They 
banged on bongos and shouted chants, 
unfurling a large pink scroll containing 
their demands: full repeal of the new 
rules that Michael Powell had just shep- 


herded into existence. 

By this time, Powell had become FCC 
chairman and had overseen the biggest 
relaxation of media ownership rules in 
over 30 years (see "Powell's Rules," 
below). But the day before, a federal 
appeals court in Philadelphia had grant- 
ed an emergency stay barring the FCC 
from putting his new rules into effect. 
The court gave as one of its reasons "the 
magnitude of this matter and the public's 
interest in reaching the proper resolu- 
tion." So the angels were celebrating, and 
they were not alone. 

The massive public response to The 
rule changes, in fact, had been unprece- 
dented. For months before and after the 
new rules were announced on lime 2, 
opposition had been loud, passionate, 
and active. Hundreds of thousands of 
comments were sent to the FCC, almost 
all in opposition. It was the heaviest out- 
pouring of public sentiment the commis- 
sion had ever experienced, 

Even more striking was the makeup 
of this opposition, what The New York 
Times called "an unusual alliance of liber- 
al and conservative organizations." 
Together in the mix, along with Code 
Pink, the activists in angel wings, were 
the National Rifle Association, the 
National Organization for Wo men, the 
Parents Television Council (a conserva- 
tive group focused on indecency in tele- 
vision), every major journalism associa- 
tion, labor groups like the Writers and 
Screen Actors Guilds, and a collection of 
liberal nonprofit organizations that had 
been focused on media issues for 

It is not every day that the ideological 
lines get redrawn over an issue, let alone 
an issue that had been destined to 
remain obscure and complex for all but 
telecommunications experts to debate. 
What's the glue that has held this unlikely 
coalition together? 

Like everyone I talked to who was 
involved in the opposition to the FCC 
rules, Victoria Cunningham, national 

coordinator for Code Pink, spoke of the 
intuitive understanding most people had 
of an issue that seems complex on the 
surface. Over and over, as I attempted to 
understand what it was that was holding 
together this diverse coalition, I heard 
the same phrase: "People just get it." And 
I heard this from groups both left and 
right. The oddest invitation Cunningham 
said she had received in the last few 
months was to appear on Oliver North's 
conservative radio talk show to debate 
the FCC issue. "And when we talked 
about that," she said, "we just couldn't 
say anything bad to each other." 

Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, the 
United Stated Conference of Catholic 
Bishops Director of Communications, 
spoke like a weathered telecommunica- 
tions professional about his opposition 
to the FCC's new rules. The bishops are 
concerned about the loss of religious 
shows, like Catholic mass on television — 
but also the loss of a time when, he says, 
in order for broadcasters to keep their 
licenses they had to "prove they were 
being responsive to the local communi- 
ty." The further consolidation of the 
media that would be spurred by the new 
FCC rules, he said, would only increase 
the lack of responsiveness to community 
needs. "We see the media as being very 
formational of people, formational of a 
culture, formational of people's atti- 
tudes," he said, "and if certain strains of 
community life are not on television they 
are, by that very reason, considered less 
important, less vital to society" 

Even though he and the conference 
had always opposed media consolida- 
tion, Maniscalco said, until recently they 
felt they were working in a vacuum. 
When the monsignor began talking about 
the current effort, though, he visibly 
brightened. His eyebrows, which are red, 
lifted, and he rolled forward in his chair. 
"The consumption of media is a passive 
consumption, it is a passive act in itself," 
he said. "And it is a passive audience that 
has said, 'We just have to take what they 

give us.' But interestingly enough, this 
seems to be something that has finally 
caught people's imagination, that they 
could make a difference in terms of turn- 
ing back these rules and saying no, we 
don't see that as being very helpful to our 

Media industry insiders were taken by 
surprise at how fast these groups man- 
aged to come together and exercise polit- 
ical influence. In addition to the emer- 
gency stay issued by the Philadelphia 
federal appeals court on the day before 
Powell's six new rules were to go into 
effect, Congress has responded with zeal 
to their demands. Consider: on July 23, 
only a month after the rules were 
approved, the House of Representatives 
voted 400 to 21 to roll back the owner- 
ship cap to 35 percent. Then, on Septem- 
ber 16, the coalition had an even greater 
success. The Senate used a parliamentary 
procedure, called a resolution of disap- 
proval — used only once before in histo- 
ry — to pass a bill repealing all the new 
regulations. It passed 55 to 40, and was 
supported by 12 Republicans, and 
cosponsored, astonishingly, by none 
other than Trent Lott. Such quick legisla- 
tive action has generated excitement, but 
it is unlikely that the coalition will find 
such easy victory in the future. The Sen- 
ate bill must now face House Republican 
leaders who have vowed to prevent the 
measure from going to a vote, partly to 
keep this political hot potato away from 
the president during an election year. The 
court case that has put the new rules on 
hold, meanwhile, promises a complicat- 
ed legal contest when it takes place next 

But these challenges don't take away 
from what has been achieved. Such ideo- 
logically disparate groups rarely find 
common cause. As Powell himself has 
pointed out, the reasons behind most of 
these groups' opposition are parochial 
and narrow. The unions are worried that 
more consolidation will lead to fewer 
jobs; the left-leaning groups are still shiv- 
ering from what they saw as nationalistic 
coverage of the war; groups like the Par- 
ents Television Council want less Buffy 
the Vampire Slayer and more Little House 
on the Prairie. Yet there they were, at 
countless public hearings over the last 
half-year, the bishop sitting next to the 
gun lobbyist sitting next to a woman 
from NOW, all united around some com- 
mon denominator. 

What unites these groups, Andrew 
Schwartzman, president of the Media 
Access Project, told me, is that they all 
generally believe that the media are lim- 
ited, and that this limitation comes from 
the fact that there is too much control in 
too few hands. This leads to a lack of 
diversity of voices, to programming that 
is out of touch with local concerns, to 
increasingly commercial and homoge- 
nized news and entertainment. And this 
is what has triggered people's passions. It 
is not the fear that their own voice won't 
echo loud enough, he said, but that fur- 
ther consolidation will produce media in 
which only the powerful few will be 
heard at all. 

The 1980s saw a major crack in the 
idea that the public interest was the top 
priority for the FCC. President Reagan's 
FCC chairman, Mark Fowler, presided 
over the death of the Fairness Doctrine, 
which required broadcast stations to 
provide airtime for opposing voices in 
controversial matters of public impor- 
tance. Then in 1996 Congress passed, 
and President Clinton signed, a major 
overhaul of U.S. telecommunications 
law, permitting greater media concentra- 
tion. Radio was significandy deregulated, 
leading to the growth of companies such 
as Clear Channel, which now operates 
more than 1,200 stations in more than 
300 markets. It was in that period that 
the national ownership cap for television 
stations went from 25 percent to 35 per- 

Such developments happened away 
from the public eye, in a place where 
only members of Congress and lobbyists 
roam. According to CeliaWexler, director 
and researcher for Common Cause, the 
nonpartisan citizens' lobby, those past 
fights were "very much inside the Belt- 
way. It was very complicated, and there 

were no groups able to tell the story in a 
way that really made people understand 
what was at stake. There were media 
reformers who understood, who wanted 
a discussion of the public-interest obliga- 
tions of broadcasters. But it didn't really 
catch fire." 

At a morning session on media issues 
at a Common Cause conference, I saw 
how dramatically the situation had 
changed. Seats to the event were in hot 
demand. Next to me an elderly couple sat 
clutching newspaper clippings, one of 
which was headlined new fee rules sap 
diversity in media owners. 

As with the liberals, there have always 
been conservative groups that have 

opposed media deregulation, most 
notably the Catholic Church, but the 
message never resonated widely. 

That, too, has changed. Take, for 
example, the Parents Television Council, 
an organization with 800,000 members 
that monitors indecency. The group regu- 
larly sends letters to the FCC when a 
show contains what they call "foul lan- 
guage" or racy subject matter. In August, 
L. Brent Bozell, the council's president, 
joined Gene Kimmelman of Consumers 
Union, a longtime advocate of media 
reform, in an editorial that was published 
in the New York Daily News, writing that 
in spite of their ideological differences 
they "agree that by opening the door to 
more media and newspaper consolida- 
tion, the FCC has endangered something 
that reaches far beyond traditional poli- 
tics: It has undermined the community- 
oriented communications critical to our 

Melissa Caldwell, director of research 
at the council, points out that the new 
ownership rules were a way for big media 
companies to buy up even more local sta- 


What unites these groups, Andrew Schwartzman, president 
of the Media Access Project, told me, is that they all generally 
believe that the media are limited, and that this limitation 
comes from the fact that there is too much control in too few 
hands. This leads to a lack of diversity of voices, to program- 
ming that is out of touch with local concerns, to increasingly 
commercial and homogenized news and entertainment. 
And this is what has triggered people's passions. 

tions. This is worrisome, she explained, 
because locally owned broadcast affili- 
ates tend to be more tesponsive to com- 
munity standards of decency. The coun- 
cil's surveys, Caldwell says, show that 
network- owned stations almost never 
preempt network shows, "whereas locally 
owned and operated stations were more 
likely to do so. We don't want to see the 
networks become even less responsive to 
community concerns than they already 

By the end of September, with his 
rules in deep freeze, Powell, speaking to 
The New York Times, expressed exaspera- 
tion with the effectiveness of the opposi- 
tion. "Basically, people ran an outside 
political campaign against the commis- 
sion," Powell was quoted as saying. "I've 
never seen that in six years." 

By the beginning of 2003, a loose 
coalition was in place. And at that point, 
Powell's personality, of all things, began 
lo play a galvanizing role. In pronounce- 
ment after pronouncement, he trumpet- 
ed the importance of these new rules — 
highlighted by his decision to vote on all 
of them in one shot. He insisted that their 
rewriting would be based purely on a sci- 
entific examination of the current broad- 
casting world. 

It was true, as Powell claimed, that 
reexamining the rules was not his idea. 
The District of Columbia Court of 
Appeals, interpreting the 1996 Telecom- 
munications Act, had ordered him to 
conduct a biennial assessment. But Pow- 
ell had many chances to include the pub- 
lic in this review, and he did not. No pub- 
lic hearings were necessary, he said; the 
facts would do the talking, and would 
point to the Tightness of his free-market 

If Powell's refusal to hold public hear- 
ings galvanized the opposition in one 
direction, the desire of another commis- 
sioner, Michael J. Copps, to engage with 
the public on this issue also played a key 
role. Copps, one of the two Democrats on 
the FCC, was unhappy with Powell's 
insistence on keeping the issue within 
the Beltway. When Powell finally 
announced that the number of public 
hearings would be limited to one, Copps 
issued a statement that read like the 
complaints of the growing grassroots 
opposition. "At stake in this proceeding 
are our core values of localism, diversity, 
competition, and maintaining the muiti- 


plicity of voices and choices that under- 
gird our marketplace of ideas and that 
sustain American democracy," he said. 

Through the winter and early spring, 
Copps organized unofficial hearings 
around the country in collaboration with 
groups like the Writers Guild, earning the 
nickname Paul Revere in some quarters. 
As media reform groups searched for a 
wide range of witnesses to speak at these 
hearings, the coalition grew to include 
groups like the National Rifle Association 
and the National Organization for 
Woman. Out of the meetings came the 
first sense that this issue could resonate. 

In the spring, after Powell refused to 
delay the June vote for further discussion 
the FCC was flooded with calls and let- 
ters. Petitions were signed with hundreds 
of thousands of names and comments. 
Something was happening. Despite the 
scant press coverage, citizens were 
responding. The Internet helped to make 
this response immediate and numerous, 
mostly through an Internet-based public 
interest group called, 
which had been an organizing 
force against the Iraq war, 
capable of turning out thou- 
sands upon thousands of sig- 
natures and donations in a 
matter of days. Now it turned 
its attention to media reform, 
and the result surprised even its 

"We thought it was just kind of a 
weird issue because it's this wonky regu- 
latory thing, it's not a typical MoveOn 
issue like stopping the drilling in the Arc- 
tic," said Eli Pariser, MoveOn's young 
national campaigns director. "After we 
heard from a critical mass of people we 
decided to pursue it and see what hap- 
pened. And when we went out with our 
petition we got this amazing response." 

A few days before the September 16 
Seriate vote on the resolution of disap- 
proval, I accompanied lobbyists from 
Consumers Union and Free Press as they 
delivered a huge MoveOn petition. Lining 
one of the halls in the Hart Senate Office 
Building were stacks upon stacks of 
paper, 340,000 names in all. It was the 
quickest and largest turnover MoveOn 
had ever experienced, including its anti- 
war effort. 

As the activists, young and in rum- 
pled, ill-fitting suits, delivered these peti- 
tions to Senate aides, everyone was 

struck by the fact that they were more 
than just names printed on paper, more 
than a rubber-stamp petition drive. Many 
of the statements seemed heartfelt. 
Sometimes they were only a line, "I want 
more diversity and freedom of speech," 
and sometimes long letters, taking up 
whole pages. People expressed their per- 
sonal dissatisfaction with what they saw 
when they turned on the TV But mostly, 
they expressed passion. It popped off the 
page. People in Batesville, Arkansas, and 
Tekamah, Nebraska, were angry. Media 
had become a political issue, as deeply 
felt as the economy, health care, or edu- 
cation. Senate Republicans and Democ- 
rats alike understood this. A few days 
later, they voted to repeal all the new reg- 

When I asked the coalition partners 
how long their alliance could last beyond 
the battle over the ownership rules, their 
answers were uniform: not long. 

But on the question of what these 
groups' larger and long-term objectives 
were for the media, I did get some 
kind of consensus. At the most 
fundamental level, there is a 
demand for a forum, for a 
place where diverse ideas can 
be heard and contrasted. The 
ideal seemed to be media that 
better reflect America, with its 
diversity, its ideological con- 
tentiousness, its multitude of values and 

When I posed the problem of whether 
Monsignor Maniscalco could eventually 
agree to share airtime with all the groups 
in this coalition, groups like NOW with 
which he had fundamental and deep dis- 
agreements, Monsignor Maniscalco had a 
simple answer: "You could say that the 
goal is for the media to give us access so 
we can finally have a space to argue 
amongst ourselves." 

© 2003 by Columbia Journalism 

Gal Beckerman is an assistant editor at 
the Columbia Journalism Review, Columbia 
University's Graduate School of Journalism, 
New York, NY. This article is an excerpt and 
not the full article which originally 
appeared in the November/December 2003 
issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. 
For the complete text, go to 

Minority Media: A Retrospective on the 40th 
Anniversary of the March on Washington 

by Andrea L. Taylor, with Norris Dickaro 

i August 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 
! people gathered at the Lincoln 
Memorial in Washington, DC to 
urge passage of pending civil rights legis- 
lation. Among the marchers that day 
were Benton Foundation Chairman 
Charles Benton of Illinois and current 
Foundation President Andrea Taylor, then 
a high school student from West Virginia 
— individuals who didn't meet until the 

The event is remembered by most for 
the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a 
Dream speech, a clarion call for full 
inclusion in pursuit of the American 
dream. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 
1964 outlawed discrimination in voting, 
public accommodations and employ- 
ment and gave a powerful boost to mak- 
ing the dream of Dr. King a reality. How- 
ever, the law was no panacea, and civil 
rights activists continued to struggle on 
many fronts including the issue of 
minorities and the media. 

Fast forward to 2003 and this year's 
heated debate about Federal Communi- 
cations Commission rules that govern 
ownership of the nation's media to 
understand why the 40th anniversary of 
the March on Washington triggers reflec- 
tions on the milestones and current con- 
ditions of minorities in the media — how 
we were portrayed, coverage of issues we 
cared about, and the extent of minority 
involvement in production and owner- 

A landmark case in 
Jackson, Mississippi 

In March 1964 Dr. Everett Parker and 
the United Church of Christ traveled to 
Jackson, Mississippi to examine the 
media. They discovered that although 
African-Americans constituted nearly 
half of the television audience, a local TV 
station ignored their concerns and 
blocked the national network feed of civil 
rights coverage or interviews with Dr. 
King. The NAACP and Parker challenged 
the station's license in a landmark case. 
The Federal Appeals Court overruled the 
FCC, which had refused to act, and vacat- 

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the 
march on Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963. 

ed the license of WLBT-TV in Jackson for 
discrimination against African-Ameri- 
cans. The Court found that the station, by 
not airing issues of public importance, 
failed all of the citizens of Jackson. 

Media activist Everett Parker later 
petitioned the FCC to introduce equal 
employment opportunity rules for the 
broadcasting industry. In 1978, at a time 
when minorities controlled less than one 
percent of the 8,500 commercial radio 
and television stations in the U.S., the 
FCC released a "Statement of Policy on 
Minority Ownership of Broadcast Facili- 
ties" addressing a lack of minority broad- 
cast ownership in America. 

During the 1960s the entertainment 
industry was severely criticized for the 
unflattering portrayal of minorities on tel- 
evision and in film. Sidney Poitier's Oscar 
Award for best actor in 1964 for Lilies of 
the Field was a milestone. Yet, when 
African Americans Denzel Washington 
and Halle Berry both won Oscars in 2002, 
the nation was reminded that in six 
decades of Academy Awards only three 
blacks (Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, 
and Louis Gossett, Jr.), two Asians 
(Miyoshi Umeki and Haing S. Ngor), one 
Puerto Rican (Rita Moreno), and one Chi- 
cane (half-Irish Anthony Quinn) had won 

Oscars, for an average rate of slightly 
more than one award per decade 
prompting calls for Hollywood to be 
more inclusive. 

FCC issues tax credits to foster 
diversity in the broadcast industry 

An effort to diversify programming in 
the broadcast industry allowed the FCC 
to issue hundreds of tax credits to broad- 
casters who sold their stations to parties 
"where minority ownership is in excess of 
50 percent or controlling," before it was 
repealed by Congress in 1995 citing fraud 
and abuse. As a result more minorities 
became owners in the media industry 
and the marketplace was slightly more 
responsive to the needs of ethnic minori- 

Black Entertainment Television (BET), 
founded by Robert L. Johnson, was the 
first cable television network aimed at 
African-Americans during this period. 
Johnson sold BET to media giant Viacom 
in 1999 and it now reaches more than 65 
million U.S. homes with programming 
and websites with an African-American 
slant. Other minority media pioneers 
entered the marketplace for radio, televi- 
sion, and news — expanding consumer 
choices and creating new concerns about 
ethnic Citizen Kanes. 
An "information-age civil 
rights bill" is introduced 

Ethnic media, in places like California 
with nearly 17 million residents who self- 
identify as Hispanic, African -American or 
Asian American, reached 84 percent of 
the target audience in 2002 reports New 
California Media. Surveys also show that 
many prefer ethnic media to general 
market alternatives and this growth is 
generating new policy debates. An exam- 
ple is the proposed merger of Univision 
and Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation, 
the largest Spanish language broadcast- 
ers. Congressional Democrats, led by 
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), 
introduced The National Minority Media 
Opportunities Act, or so-called "informa- 
tion-age civil rights bill," to prevent 
"media mergers that would create 
monopolies" in broadcast markets serv- 


For the Record 

Organizations Opposed To Media Concentration 

Public Interest/Trade 
and Other Groups Opposed 
to Media Concentration 

A American Academy of Child and 
Adolescent Psychiatry, 
A American Academy of Pediatrics 

A American Psychological Association 

A Children Now 

A Chinese for Affirmative Action 

A Civil Rights Forum 


A CodePink, Women for Peace 

www. codepink4peace. org 

A Common Cause www.common- 

4 Consumer Federation of America 

A Consumers Union 

A Council of Catholic Bishops 

A Department of Professional Employ- 
ees, AFL-C10 

A Family Research Council 

A Feminist Majority Foundation 
A Green Party 
A League of United Latin American Cit- 
A MATCH (Mobilize Against Tobacco 
for Children's Health 
www.rnatchco alition. com/ 
A Medical Society of New Jersey 

A National Association of Child Advo- 
A National Organization for Women 
(NOW) issues / media 
A National PTA, 
A National Rifle Association 

A Philadelphia Lesbian & Gay Task 
A Socially Responsible Investment 
Coalition (San Antonio) -she/ 


t Texas State Rifle Association 
A Traditional Values Coalition 
A United Church of Christ 
a. U.S. Catholic Bishops, 
A. USPIRG consumer/media/index.htm 
A U.S. Small Business Administration 

& Wider Opportunities for Women 

Media Critique and 
Information Resources 

A. Columbia Journalism Review 

A Union for Democratic Communica- 
A Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 

A NOW with Bill Moyers (search; 
media) now 
a ACTION Center media 

Capital Eye (search: media lobbying 
and contributions) 
i Advertising Age 
I Computer Professionals for Social 
A Telecommunications Policy Research 
A Digital Divide Network 
A Global Issues 
4 Center for Public Integrity 
A Media for Democracy 2004 

Commercial Alert 

Media Channel 
A Project Censored 
4 Media Education Foundation 
A Institute for Public Accuracy 
A The Newspaper Guild 

ing minority language populations. 

Recent studies confirm that people of 
color are consistently underrepresented 
among the nation's commercial broad- 
cast owners, representing 3.8 percent in 
2000, far below their estimated 33 per- 
cent representation in the U.S. popula- 
tion. Minority ownership is declining in 
the wake of the 1996 Telecommunica- 
tions Act due in part to lenient ownership 
rules and media consolidation that limits 
competition, especially in radio. Since 
1995, when the largest radio owner con- 
trolled 85 stations, individual radio sta- 
tion owners have declined by almost 25 
percent. Today, Clear Channel, the largest 
radio conglomerate, owns over 1,200 sta- 

Challenge to the FCC ruling on 
media ownership is unprecedented 

The FCC voted in early June 2003 to 
relax federal media ownership rules, per- 
mitting large conglomerates to buy more 
broadcast stations nationally and consol- 
idate control over more newspaper and 
station combinations locally. This deci- 
sion generated unprecedented public 
debate and has spawned legislative 
counter action and court challenges. 

Just prior to the anniversary of the 
March on Washington, FCC Chairman 
Michael Powell announced the creation 
of a new Federal Advisory Committee on 
Diversity in the Digital Age. As delibera- 
tions on the new media ownership rules 
continue, the fact is that minorities are 
still underrepresented in all levels of the 
industry, prompting many organizations, 
including the Benton Foundation to con- 
tinue public education efforts about the 
role of media in a democracy and the 
importance of a media environment that 
reflects the nation's diversity and pro- 
vides an inclusive telecommunications 
environment for all. 

Andrea L Taylor is president of the Ben- 
ton Foundation. She can be readied at The Benton Foundation 
received the Alliance's George Stoney Award 
for Humanistic Communications in 1990. 
The full text of the original article can be 
accessed at publi- 

Adapted from an article originally pub- 
lished at on August 28, 2003 

Convergence: The Tie That 
Binds PEG access to Its Allies 

by Chuck Sherwood 

; itfing here on Cape Cod at the lead- 
ling edge of the North American con- 
tinent, my quest for the past couple 
of months has been to reflect on the past, 
present and future of the PEG 
access /community media movement and 
the relationship with our allies. 

Community access has allies in the 
media reform, online activists, media arts 
center and the community technology 
and networking movements, as well as 
consumer and public interest advocacy 
organizations and foundations that sup- 
port media and digital divide issues. We 
also have allies in local franchising 
authorities, who manage the local right- 
of-way and siting permits utilized by the 
cable and telecommunication providers 
for the delivery of wireline and wireless 
services. And there are the state and fed- 
eral regulatory agencies and the state and 
federal legislative bodies. They may or 
may not be our allies but they are the 
institutional arenas that our allies and we 
have to focus on in our struggle to repre- 
sent our organizational and our commu- 
nities' interests. 

Widi each passing day, we read, hear 
about and dea! with the consolidation of 
print, broadcast and electronic media, 
telecommunications infrastructure, and 
content providers and the continuing 
deregulation of the regulator)' structure, 
as we have known it. The transformations 
of the past 20 years and the access move- 
ment's relationship with other media 
reform groups are better understood 
through a historical perspective on the 
development of various communications 
distribution infrastructure and related 
regulatory structures. 

In order to understand these transfor- 
mations, let's look back to the middle of 
the nineteenth century when the United 
States began creating continental connec- 
tivity with railroads and their telegraph 
networks. Those networks not only ran 
the railroads but also provided the distri- 
bution means for news and information 
as well as persoal communications. The 
telegraph began to eliminate the delay, 

due to distance, in the delivery of not 
only goods, but also information and 
communication and resulted in the 
beginning development of the mass print 
media as newspapers had access to 
national information. 

After the Civil War, the North Ameri- 
can continent was connected with Eng- 
land and then Europe by transatlantic 
cables. The text-based, wireline Victorian 
Internet emerged as an early form of 
email service. By the early twentieth cen- 
tury, this wireline infrastructure also 
delivered telephone services. Wireless 
telecommunications infrastructure devel- 
oped through the creation of the wireless 
telegraph system that Marconi developed 
on Cape Cod in 1903. At first, the wireless 
telegraph was a text-based service. It soon 
became an audio-based service— radio 
and then cell phones — and eventually 
audio and visual — television. This com- 
munications infrastructure has evolved 
into today's wireline and wireless services 
delivered by terrestrial and satellite-based 
providers that carry voice, video and data 

The implementation of these infra- 
structures and services did not occur in a 
regulatory vacuum. Since the building of 
the infrastructure necessitated granting 
rights for the use of public acreage, both 
physical and electronic, government had 
a critical role. Both granting processes 
and regulation came under the jurisdic- 
tion of various local, state and federal 
entities generally without much public 
participation. For example, the federal 
government played a pivotal role with 
land grants and subsidies to the railroad 
corporations and telegraph companies. 
Also without electricity, there would be 
no telecommunications. The develop- 
ment of the local, regional and national 
electric grids occurred parallel to 
telecommunications infrastructure and 
have the same granting process for the 
use of the public rights-of-way. You only 
need to view historical photographs of 
the forests of utility poles and wires that 
filled the streets of early twentieth centu- 
ry cities to understand some of the rea- 

sons regulation was necessary. 

Regulation was also necessary to 
insure that all communities were served. 
Communities not connected to trans- 
portation lines, electric grids or telecom- 
munications networks did not have the 
same potential for development as those 
that were connected. The electromagnetic 
spectrum was also regulated so that one 
provider did not interfere with the trans- 
mission of the others in their local service 
area. The high capital costs of construct- 
ing networks, and interconnection, devel- 
oped nat ural monopolies that needed 
regulation, in areas such as universal 
service and price control, in order to pro- 
tect consumers, whether they were indi- 
viduals, government entities, nonprofit 
institutions or businesses. The support by 
government for monopoly providers 
began to unravel in the late 1970s with 
trucking and airline deregulation and 
moved quickly to media and telecommu- 
nications throughout the 1980s and 

So, how does this historical develop- 
ment of these infrastructure and regulato- 
ry models connect the PEG Access/com- 
munity media movement to our various 
allies? The answer is the impact of con- 
vergence on several levels. 

First, there is technological conver- 
gence. With the migration from analog to 
digital content services, we are moving 
from three different delivery infrastruc- 
tures that have been owned by different 
types of corporations to the delivery of 
voice, video and data services by wireline 
or wireless broadband infrastructure 
providers. The convergence of delivery 
technology has aligned the community 
access movement with the community 
computing and networking movements, 
low power radio advocates and other 
public interest otganizations working on 
digital divide issues. 

The second convergence issue is bet- 
ter known as consolidation, or some 
would call it the remonopolization of the 
ownership structure of these providers. 
During the 1990s the buzzword was syn- 
ergy, but the reality was that multimedia 
conglomerates were not only vertically 


For the Record 

Organizations Opposed To Media Concentration 

Media-Related Organizations 

▲ Action Coalition for Media Education 

A American Federation of Television &> 

Radio Artists, 

A Benton Foundation, 

A Black Citizens for a Fair Media, 

A Caucus for Producers, Writers and 
Directors, index.html pr/0203/fecpdfs/Respon- 

A Center for Creative Voices in Media 
A Coalition for Program Diversity 
(includes: American Federation of TV& 
Radio Artists (NY, NY); Caisey-Wemer- 
Mandabach, L.L.C. (LA, CA); Directors 
Guild of America (LA, CA); Marian Rees 
Association, Inc. (Studio City, CA); Media- 
Corn (NY, NY); Screen Artists Guild of 
America (LA, CA); Sony Pictures Televi- 
sion (Colver City, CA); Stephen J. Cannell 
Productions (LA, CA) 
A Future of Music Coalition 
A Mediascope, 
A Minority Media Telecommunications 
A Morality in the Media 

A National Association for Better Broad- 
casting about/ 
A National Association of Black Owned 
A National Association of Hispanic Jour- 
A National Institute on Media and the 
A National Alliance for Media Arts and 
Culture (NAMAC) 
A Newspaper Guild 
A Parents Television Council 

A Public Relations Society of America 

A Sandra M. Ortiz, Executive Director of 
the University of Southern California's 

Center for Communication Law & Policy, pr/0103/fccpdfs/Ortiz- 

4 Telecommunications Research Action 
A Washington Area Citizens Coalition 
Interested in Viewers' Constitutional 
Rights pro- 
grams /diversity /comments/rdiotvxo.htm 
A Women's Institute for Freedom of the 

A Writers Guild of America (east & west) 

Media Reform and 
Advocacy Organizations 

a Free Press, 
A Media Access Proj ect 
A Center for Digital Democracy 
A Electronic Frontier Foundation 
A Reclaim the Media! . 
A Center for International Media Action 
k Media Alliance 
A Media Democracy Legal Project 
A Our Media Voice 

A Public Knowledge 

A National Association of Telecommuni- 
cations Officers and Advisors 

A National Alliance for Media Arts and 
A Alliance for Community Media 
A Community Technology Centers' Net- 

but also horizontally integrating. A recent 
example is the FCC's elimination of owner- 
ship barriers among cable companies, radio 
and TV broadcast networks and newspapers. 
Now we have the prospect of Comcast, the 
nation's second largest cable company, buy- 
ing Disney/ABC, one of the largest owners of 

Concerns over this horizontal ownership 
of content and distribution technology by 
fewer and fewer companies has spawned 
alliances among long-time media reform 
organizations and activists, professional 
journalist groups, media arts centers, the 
creative community, consumer groups and 
many other diverse issue-related organiza- 
tions, such as NOW the NRA, National PTA 
and Common Cause. 

This leads to the third convergence issue, 
which is regulatory convergence. The multi- 
media conglomerates are moving quickly to 
utilize converged delivery technologies and 
yet Congress and the FCC are using old defi- 
nitions for these services which, in turn, 
frame the regulatory issues for state and 
local governments. When, technically, all 
content is digital, then the regulatory 
approach of defining the services as infor- 
mation services, telecommunications servic- 
es or cable services no longer makes sense. It 
is all Is and Os being delivered by wireline 
and wireless providers. What is still relevant 
is that the delivery technology is using the 
public right-of-way and public spectrum. 

The technological changes are beginning 
to drive changes to the regulatory structure. 
These regulatory developments are dictating 
stronger coalitions among community 
access advocates, local franchising authori- 
ties for telecommunications and cable, 
national groups like NATOA, NLC and U.S. 
Conference of Mayors, and other organiza- 
tions working on spectrum and right-of-way 
management in the public interest, such as 
the New America Foundation and the Center 
for Digital Democracy. 

It will be through an understanding of 
the convergence of new technologies and 
infrastructure and the community access 
movement's reliance on strong relationships 
with our allies that will l ead to legislation 
and regulatory structures that protect and 
preserve the interests of our local communi- 
ties. This struggle will make us all locally 
active and globally connected. 

Chuck Sherwood is a senior partner with 
Community Media Visioning Partners and sen- 
ior associate with TeleDimensions, Inc. He can 
be reached at 508.385.3808, 

Low Power Radio Takes Hold 

Radio pirates across the political spectrum decided to 
cast their defiant radio broadcasts as acts of civil disobedience 
against a wealth-based broadcasting system. 


by Pete Tridish 

ronicthcus Radio Project has been 
fighting for community radio since 
l^the late 1990s. At that time, it was 
considered a political impossibility for low 
power radio stations to get a community 
radio license. The Federal Communications 
Commission had frozen noncommercial 
radio licensing since the early 1980s. The 
agency had a long-standing policy of benign 
indifference to the unprofitable portion of 
the FM band. However, push for change was 
brewing in local communities. Radio pirates 
across the political spectrum decided to cast 
their defiant radio broadcasts as 
acts of civil disobedience against a 
wealth-based broadcasting system. 

In 1996, pro-corporate legisla- 
tion lifted restrictions on owner- 
ship of broadcast outlets, making it 
possible for a corporation to own 
an unlimited number of radio sta- 
tions across the country. This 
allowed corporations to buy local 
media outlets by the bucketful, 
while independent owners went 
out of business attempting to compete with 
the chain owners. These corporate media 
moguls have enormous power, frequently 
have other business interests and intercon- 
nected agendas, and have enormous stakes 
in the outcomes of public policy debates. Not 
only do they control the channels through 
which most Americans understand public 
debates, but they are also engaged in a cut- 
throat race to the bottom line to gain audi- 
ence and build advertising revenue. 

It is a strangely myopic view that corpo- 
rations can be impartial, disinterested man- 
agers and stewards of the broadcast spec- 
trum. And in what seems to be an obvious 
breach of the guardianship of the airwaves 
entrusted to the government by the public, 
the FCC has largely supported the shift 
toward a democratically-bankrupt, corporate 

Afteryears of public comment and engi- 
neering studies, the combined pressure from 
media reformers and direct action activists 
prevailed to win a partial victory. On January 
26, 2000, the FCC created a new low power 


radio project 

FM (LPFM) service. The rules allowed small 
nonprofit groups, libraries, churches and 
community organizations to apply for licens- 
es to operate simple, inexpensive communi- 
ty-based radio stations. Since then, a slew of 
groups, including unions, civil rights groups, 
environmental organizations and other com- 
munity organizations, received licenses. As of 
November 2003, about 250 of these new 
independent-spirited stations are on the air, 
and many hundreds more are on the way. 
LPFM stations have freedom in programming 
choices — and also freedom not to run the 
most titillating and pandering forms of pro- 
grams just to increase audience numbers. 

Despite the excitement generat- 
ed by these new stations, those on 
the air today are actually the lucky 
exceptions. Most groups with com- 
munity radio dreams have been 
waiting for years without any FCC 
action. Many other groups were not 
even given an opportunity to apply. 
The FCC's original proposal for 
LPFM would have opened up thou- 
sands more frequencies to commu- 
nity groups. 

Unfortunately, Congress (under pressure 
from incumbent broadcasters) snuckthe 
"Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act" into a 
"must-pass" spending bill in late 2000. Under 
this legislation, no new stations are allowed 
in the top 50 urban markets. 

Prometheans and media activists for 
democracy will focus our efforts on repealing 
the "Broadcast Preservation Act," allowing 
community radio into cities. Our other main 
goal is to pass legislation protecting the pub- 
lic from rampant consolidation of media 

For more information go to: 

Pete Tridish founded a pirate radio station, 
and its legal successor, in 
Philadelphia. He is also a founder of the 
Prometheus Radio Project. He tours the country 
regularly to help start community LPFM radio 
stations and speaks at colleges, coffee shops, liv- 
ing rooms, garages and even the CATO Institute 
promoting media democratization. He holds a 
BA in Appropriate Technology from Antioch Col- 

Prometheus Sues FCC 

In early June 2003, the FCC 
announced plans to ease already 
slack regulation on media owner- 
ship limits. Three months later, in 
Philadelphia, the ordinarily scruffy 
activists at Prometheus Radio Pro- 
ject put on their borrowed suits 
and black sneakers (that could 
almost pass for dress shoes) and 
went to court. With attorneys from 
Media Access Project, Prometheus 
sued the FCC for a stay of the 
implementation of these potentially 
devastating rules, and won. The 
stay allows Prometheus an oppor- 
tunity to prove that the new regula- 
tions would permit corporate media 
moguls to increase their holdings 
at the expense of localism and 

Radio Consciencia 
Is On the Air! 

The Prometheus Radio Project 
and the Coalition of Immokalee 
Workers (CIW) successfuily put a 
new community radio station on 
the air December 5-7, 2003, at 
Prometheus' Fifth Radio Barnrais- 

The CIW is a community-based 
farm worker organization. Its mem- 
bers are largely Latino, Haitian, 
and Mayan Indian immigrants work- 
ing in low-wage jobs throughout the 
state of Florida. They fight for fair 
wages and the right to organize. 
Radio Consciencia will air programs 
in several languages, including 
Spanish, Creole and English. 

Radio barnraisings are confer- 
ences where volunteers are trained 
and then build an entire low power 
radio station from the microphone 
to the antenna. Prometheus has 
organized radio barnraisings in 
Maryland, California, Louisiana and 
Washington. The next planned one 
is in late spring 2004, at a site in 
New England. 

60T)tr,il New York has a potential 
Homeland Security problem, and I 
don't mean one related to the 
stressed power grid or Hancock Interna- 
tional Airport. This one concerns the 
health of local radio news. During a crisis, 
local radio is the public's information life- 
line; it instantly transforms into the pub- 
lic's single most important mass medium. 
In such circumstances, radio ceases to be 
just a business and becomes a part of the 
Homeland Security response, with clear 
responsibilities to the public. 

The August 14, 2003 power failure 
gave us a chance to test the readiness of 
local radio news in a crisis. I had no 
power at my home. I tuned to WSYR-AM, 
which markets itself as Central New York's 
home for news and talk. Indeed, so 
branded is WSYR-AM as our local radio 
news station, that it never occurred to me 
to tune anywhere else. I am a faithful lis- 

What I heard, from about 5 p.m. until 
9 p.m. was not encouraging. Rather, it was 
deeply disturbing and deserves commu- 
nity discussion. 

Think back to WSYR's response to the 
Labor Day storm of 1998. It was heroic, 
precisely what news radio should be in a 
crisis. I was glued to its coverage from 3 
a.m. until well into the next day. The sta- 
tion provided local information, reassur- 
ance and a sense of community. 

I assumed the same would be forth- 
coming on August 14. Radio news people 
live for these kinds of crises. At a station 
truly dedicated to news, all personnel 
would report to work and be assigned to 
beats, such as the mayor's office and the 
police; advertisements would be bumped 
from the schedule; a traffic helicopter 
would be dispatched; and local spokes- 
people would be in the studio to answer 
questions from callers. 

If the emergency was regional or 
national in scope, a small portion of each 

When the 
Power Went 

Off, Local 
Radio Failed 


by David Rubin 

hour would be devoted to updating lis- 
teners on the problem's scope. But the 
primary focus would be local. Listeners 
would learn what was happening, how 
government was responding and how 
they should respond. 

I heard almost none of this on August 
14. News Director Bill Carey was the 
anchor and seemed to be all alone, with- 
out a local reporting staff to turn to. After 
brief local segments, he switched to a 
nationally focused CNN feed. 

Afternoon talk-show host Jim Reith 
did his best to convert his show into a 
command post by taking calls from listen- 
ers. While interesting, callers do not sub- 
stitute for a trained reporting staff and the 
station runs the risk of inaccuracy when 
relying on such "correspondents." 

Once Reith finished his program, the 
station simulcast the audio from its sister 
television station Channel 9 for a short 
while, and then took the ABC television 
network feed where I learned about what 
was happening in New York City and 
around the country, but nothing about 
the Syracuse area. We just disappeared. 

My power returned shortly after 10 
p.m. Crisis over. But suppose the power 

failure had lasted for days or there had 
been a toxic spill or a biological attack? 
What would WSYR have done to inform 

The Syracuse radio market, like most 
markets (thanks to the FCC), is in the grip 
of a monopoly. Clear Channel Communi- 
cations, based in San Antonio, Texas, owns 
WSYR, seven other radio stations and one 
television station in our market. We have 
been told that the monopoly's good side is 
Clear Channel's ability to pull together 
resources and offer a better product than 
an independent owner could muster. 

If so, that didn't happen on August 14. 

Either Clear Channel is in the news 
business at WSYR— as it claims to be— or 
it is not. Based on the August 14 crisis, it 
no longer employs a newsroom staffed to 
handle an emergency. So this now 
becomes OUR emergency. What is to be 

Clear Channel has at least four 

First, it can put the public's interest 
ahead of its profit margin and staff this 
station properly. The media have constitu- 
tional protection, and the Founding 
Fathers didn't confer it to protect Clear 
Channel's shareholders and executives. 

Or, if Clear Channel doesn't want to go 
it alone, it can offer to join a consortium 
of other Central New York radio stations, 
commercial and noncommercial, to 
respond locally to emergencies. 

Thirdly, Clear Channel can abandon 
the news-talk format and permit another 
station to fill that niche with a better 

Finally, Clear Channel can sell the sta- 
tion to a local ownership group dedicated 
to operating it in the public interest. 

The FCC used to require all licensees 
to operate in the public interest before it 
caved in ro the broadcast lobby and 
dropped serious oversight of the industry. 
The government got us into this problem. 
Now it must get us out to protect our 
security in Syracuse. 

Clear Channel, what do you intend to 
do? Our lives may depend on your answer. 

David Rubin has been dean of the S.I. 
Newhouse School of Public Communications 
at Syracuse since 1990. He teaches First 
Amendment law, has written extensively 
about the performance of journalists, and 
was a Pulitzer Prize Juror for two years in the 
late 1990s. 

Utah Sings an Ode to Community Radio 

Community media has few proponents who can sing the truth 
better than singer /raconteur Utah Phillips. You can hear his take 
on community media put to song on the October 18, 2003 Prairie 
Home Companion radio program, which also included Al 
Franken. Visit performances/20031018/ 
and take a listen to segment nine for a treat. For more on Utah 
Phillips, a story in himself, visit or check 
out any of the other 16,000 citations on a Google search. 


Warning: Free Trade Agreements May 
Be Hazardous to Your Media's Health 

by Bob Russell 

, oh Wallach, director of Global Trade 
/ Watch, laid out the hazards to dem- 
ocratic media reform from various 
"free trade" agreements and warned that 
any progress made by media reformers 
with the FCC in the United States to rein 
in the power of corporate media can and 
will be overridden by international trade 
agreements like the World Trade Organi- 
zation (WTO) and North America Free 
Trade Area (NAFTA). 

Wallach spoke at the National Confer- 
ence on Media Reform, November 2003, 
on a panel titled Global Trade Agree- 
ments and Communications Control, 
about how global trade agreements are 
threatening to stifle speech and expand 
corporate power over democratically cre- 
ated, public interest media policy in the 
U.S. and abroad. 

She said that experts in public inter- 
est communication policy and world 
trade issues need to develop strategies to 
counteract proposed trade rules in the 
WTO, NAFTA and FTAA (Free Trade Areas 
of the Americas) that would allow 
transnational media conglomerates to 
sue governments for affecting media 
ownership controls or public funding of 
media. Expansion of rules that will affect 
media issues are known as the GATS 
(General Agreement on Trade and Ser- 

She made it clear that these trade 
agreements are not really about "free 
trade." They are about the corporate gov- 
ernance of the global economy. In a 

sense, it is turning over the control and 
regulation of the economy for the benefit 
of large corporate interests that reduce 
culture, media and social concerns into 
the bottom-line of corporate earnings. 

The direction of the language in these 
trade agreements is to commoditize 
media services so they are regulated as 
"commodities." Once media services are 
commodities, corporate interests are pro- 
tected from many government regula- 
tions that might interfere with "free 
trade." For example, regulations could 
include rules the FCC imposes on the 
percentage of ownership of media prop- 
erties in the same market. These rules 
could be considered a restraint of trade 
and be declared illegal under WTO and 
NAFTA rules. 

The proposed expansion of NAFTA 
known as the FTAA and CAFTA (Central 
American Free Trade Area) would include 
these rules and expand the coverage to 
most of the western hemisphere, 

Wallach appealed to organizations like 
the Alliance for Community Media to col- 
laborate with Global Trade Watch and oth- 
ers, and to lead the charge to prevent fur- 
ther erosion of media control from these 
international trade agreements. People 
wotking in the public communications 
policy arena need to engage in this battle 
against corporate globalization. 

Bob Russell is co-director ofNeahtawan- 
ta Center ( and co-owner of 
the Neahtawanta Inn - B&B (www.oldmis- 
sion.comlinn) in Traverse City, Michigan. He- 
can be contacted at 800.220.1415 orbrus- 

You can listen to the mp3 
audio of Wallach's presenta- 
tion at the National Confer- 
ence on Media Reform at 


▲ Global Trade Watch trade 

A Free Press 
A American Friends Service Committee trade/learn 

▲ Communication Rights in the Infor- 
mation Society 
Global Exchange www.globalexchange 
.org campaigns/ftaa 

A Independent Media Center 

A WTO site link 

english/ tratop^e/ serv_e/serv_e.htm 

A Hemispheric Social Alliance 

A International Gender and Trade Net- 
A International Network for Cultural 
A IP Justice FTAA 
A Jobs with Justice global/ 
FTAA/ stopFTAA.htnx 
A Public Citizen 
trade/ ftaa 

A Union Network International, Media 

Sector www/ UNIsite 


A World Forum on Communications 




On the Record: Senate comments from Congressional Testimony on SJ Resolution 17 

"In my time as chairman of the Senate Commerce Com- 
mittee, no issue has erupted so rapidly and evoked such pas- 
sion from the public as media consolidation. These are criti- 
cally important decisions." - Senator John McCain (R-AZ) 

"The rule changes undermine the public interest and do 
nothing to ensure diversity of viewpoints, "localism," coverage 
of events in local communities by people who are a part of 
that community, or to ensure that healthy competition exists 
amongst media outlets." - Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 

"The Commission's first responsibility is to ensure diversi- 
ty competition and localism. The Commission has no respon- 
sibility to facilitate the business plans of the major networks 
or any other narrow economic interest."- John Kerry (D-MA) 

"If allowed to stand, the FCC rules will ravage the inde- 
pendence and character of other forms of media, from televi- 
sion to newspapers, the way radio has already been ravaged." 

- Russ Feingold (D-WI) 

Universal Community Access from Thin Air? 

by Michael Calabrese and Matt Barranca 

pre than ever, community lead- 
Fers are looking to the heavens in 
t_y /L/ their attempts to bring afford- 
able broadband Internet access to their 
communities. This sky gazing is not a 
faith-based initiative, but rather a grow- 
ing trend to tap the power of the public 
airwaves to provide inexpensive high- 
speed wireless Internet access. 

The trend, of course, started with the 
rise of Wi-Fi technology, which allows 
users to send data wirelessly at short dis- 
tances at connection speeds as high as 54 
Mbps. Inexpensive wireless routers, avail- 
able at any Wal-Mart, allow users to share 
bandwidth by accessing the unlicensed 
frequency bands — the small portion of 
the electromagnetic spectrum that is free 
and open to citizen access. With amazing 
success, more than 2,500 Wireless ISPs 
(WISPS) and nonprofit Community 
Access Networks (CANs) are using modi- 
fied Wi-Fi equipment and the unlicensed 
bands to provide broadband access to 
entire communities. 

The success of these efforts relies on 
free access to the small portion of the 
public airwaves that does not require an 
FCC license — the unlicensed bands at 
900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and at 5.7 and 5.8 
GHz. Within this small sliver of the spec- 
trum — once considered "junk bands" 
because they are shared with garage door 
openers, cordless phones, microwave 
ovens, and thousands of other such 
devices — countless community networks 
are reaching underserved populations 
and thousands of U.S. schools are using 
wireless local area networks to connect 

This activity is great news for com- 
munities, but the success of unlicensed 
spectrum to provide last-mile connectivi- 
ty reinforces the reality that the vast 
majority of the spectrum is off-limits to 
citizens for direct access. The truth is that 
much of the spectrum represents an 
enormous untapped public resource that 
could be used by communities to solve 
broadband Internet access problems 
quickly, efficiently and for themselves. 
The New America Foundation recently 
published the Citizen's Guide to the Air- 
waves (see images) to illustrate how the 

The truth is that much of 
the spectrum represents an 
enormous untapped public 
resource that could be used 
by communities to solve 
broadband Internet access 
problems quickly, efficiently 
and for themselves, 

spectrum is allocated, and to demon- 
strate the untapped potential of the pub- 
lic airwaves. 

Just as the Federal Communications 
Commission sets rules for media owner- 
ship, it also decides which frequencies 
can be used by whom and for what pur- 
pose. Currently, the most useful block of 
spectrum is allocated, free of charge, to 
the exclusive use of television broadcast- 
ers. The low- frequency, broadcast spec- 
trum is supremely valuable because at 
low frequencies, signals are able to cut 
through trees, walls and other obstacles 
than the higher frequency bands used by 
cell phones, satellite TV and most other 
of wireless devices. The New America 
Foundation estimates that the 67 chan- 
nels of spectrum allocated to local and 

network TV broadcasters in each market 
are worth more than S200 billion. In a 
confidential memo, media analyst Tom 
Wolzien told the National Association of 
Broadcasters that its spectrum was worth 
$367 billion. Yet, for over 50 years, the 
FCC has granted TV broadcasters exclu- 
sive access to these bands free of charge, 
requiring only minimal public interest 
obligations taking the form of heavily 
marketed children's programming, 10 
and 15-second public service announce- 
ments, and many news shows of ques- 
tionable "educational" content. 

To measure how these valuable bands 
are being used, the New America Foun- 
dation surveyed the spectrum above our 
offices in population-dense Washington, 
DC to find that at any given time, no 
more than 62 percent of the spectrum is 
in use. Meanwhile, far removed from this 
vast wasteland of beachfront spectrum, 
in the congested unlicensed bands, 
WISPS and CANs are providing high 
speed Internet access to communities 
long ignored by cable and DSL providers. 
In just one example, the Rockwood Area 
School District in rural Pennsylvania has 
built an expansive, wireless wide area 
network that connects two area schools 
and provides affordable high speed 
access to as many as 100 area house- 

The spectrum's worth compared to other things 

$1 billion 

each ■ =5l billion 

Bili Gates 
$52. a billion 

a §| Temporary 
=*-. assistance 


W" U.S. military 
^hbss^ budget 
mi^r $357 billion 


for needy 
families <TANF) 
$24 billion 


$31.2 billion 

$14? bilfion 







All the gold 
stored in 
Fort Knox 
S45.5 billion 


U.S. radio spectrum $771 Mlllan (est.) 








■■■■■■■BaaaaaaBBaaaa ; 




One hope of community groups, such as the popular, 
nonprofit networks built by and die Bay 
Area Research Wireless Network (, is to 
share access to unused, low-frequency TV bands (and per- 
haps even with the military, which holds the largest share of 
prime frequencies, which it uses only in certain places at 
certain times). These CANs use low-power, smart radios, 
which have the ability to change their frequencies to avoid 
interference with the high-powered broadcasters. New "cog- 
nitive radio" devices employ a listen-before-talk technology 
that allows the efficient sharing of underutilized airwaves. 
But FCC licensees, in any of the bands, are opposed to shar- 
ing frequencies with community networks because it could 
devalue the supposedly temporary spectrum licenses given 
to them by the FCC, which they aspire to own outright This 
is especially true now that the PCC is moving to allow 
licensees to lease their spectrum allocations. 

Unlike any previous technology, unlicensed wireless 
broadband has allowed communities to address access 
issues for themselves. But the ability of this technology to 
make a real impact on rural and urban community access is 
far from certain. Numerous battles are being waged in the 
FCC by broadcast, cellular and even educational lobbyists 
to claim a portion of the spectrum for themselves — dis- 
cretely re-appropriating the public airwaves into private 

Currently, the best bet for universal broadband access is 
through wireless sharing of the untapped spectrum 
resource. But without citizen interest in this open access 
issue, community leaders looking to the sky may one day 
only find more thin air. 

Michael Calabrese is director of the New America Founda - 
tion's Spectrum Policy Program, where Matt Barranca is a pro- 
gram associate. The Citizen's Guide to the Airwaves can be 
downloaded at 

The politics of spectrum 

To help understand how spectrum lobbying works, 

here's an analogy with federal land grants: 


The government owns undeveloped land. 

^ m *v?. 

The government grants limited grazing 
rights at favorable sub-market rates. 

The rightsholder lobbies the government to 
grant extended rights that include mining 
and oil development. 


The rightsholder later lobbies for rights to 
build on the land, arguing that this meets 
public needs, as well as paying the 
rightsholder for his investment. 

InB iiW r 

■■■«■■■ jtk. 
sssu S 


Similarly, lobbying by incumbent licensees for 

spectrum 'flexibility' can turn a limited-term, low-value TV license 

into a permanent and far more valuable mobile Internet service. 

For Further Reading on the Airwaves Actual VS. potential market Values 

The following titles are available at 
www.spectrumpoticy, org 
A The Citizen's Guide to the Airwaves, New America Founda- 

▲ Radio Revolution: The Coming Age of Unlicensed Wireless, 
by Kevin Werbach 

"Reclaiming the 'Vast Wasteland': Unlicensed Sharing of 
Broadcast Spectrum," by J.H. Snider and Max Vilimpoc 

▲ "Breaking the Chains: Unlicensed Spectrum as a Last-Mile 
Broadband Solution," by James H. Johnston and J.H. Snider 

Also See: 

▲ The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Con- 
nected World, by Lawrence Lessig, (New York: Random 
House, 2001). 

▲ The FCC's Spectrum Policy Task Force Report, available at 

Community Access Networks: 

A NYCwireless: 

A Bay Area Research Wireless Network: 

▲ Seattle Wireless: 

▲ Austin Wireless: 

Under the FCC's 75-year-old zoning-and giveaway-allocation 
process, most licenses specify the service that must be operated 
at that frequency. Most licensees do not have the flexibility to 
change the service provided, or to sell or sublease the license, 
without permission. This is analogous to a vendor who obtains a 
license to operate a hot dog stand in New York's Central Park. 
The right to sell hot dogs is a lot less valuable than the right to 
operate a retail store in the same area. 

Similarly, a license to operate a TV station is much less valuable 
than a license to provide cell phone or wireless Internet services 
on the same spectrum-licenses that have sold at auction for 
billions of dollars. As a result, broadcasters and some other 
" -.Jlftgj,^ incumbent licensees are lobbying for spectrum 
"flexibiltty"-new, more valuable license 
rights that they couid even sell or sublease 
to other companies. Cell phone companies 
that paid billions at auction for spectrum 
licenses are among those arguing that such 
enhanced license rights should be 
auctioned, not given away. 

An Old Story with a New Twist 

Commentary by George C. Stoney 

t seems I have lived with the threat 
■ f — and reality — of "media concen- 
v s tration" all my life. 

First it was the way Hearst and other 
press lords were buying up our home- 
town newspapers. [It's hard to believe 
that at one time almost every middle-size 
city in the U.S. had at least a couple of 
truly independent daily newspapers.) 
Then it was die newspaper chains buying 
up our country's weeklies, most of them 
owned and edited by local journalists 
with a printing business on the side to 
support the paper. 

By the 1970s, when the possibilities of 
cable and satellite communication were 
being discovered, we had another fight 
on our hands. This time we came up with 
some part of an answer: the concept of 
public access as a mechanism for making 
local media real. Defying every president 
of media domination, we have survived. 
But for how much longer? 

The answer lo that question depends 
in good part on our willingness to devote 
energy, time and will to winning public 
support. No laws, no government bureau 
or legal president can guarantee public 
access unless we have a general under- 
standing of what we are about and a 
greater measure of participation by a 
wider segment of potential viewers. This 
is not to say that we should be governed 
by how many viewers and users we have. 
It does mean we have to pay more atten- 
tion to die interests and concerns of the 
many potential viewers who now do not 
find themselves or their vital interests 



HA£ Beew 


you WAtfieU. 


represented on our channels. 

This is a continuing challenge, and 
one that may necessitate making some 
modifications in the governance of 
some of our channels' "first come, first 
served" rules that was such an impor- 
tant part of our founding princi- 
ples. It may require access 
center staff people to be more 
pro- active in seeking the 
unlieard-from and helping 
them get involved. If "con- 
stant vigil is the only safe- 
guard of liberty" is the rule for 
the survival of our governing 
democracy, it is equally so for 
the survival of public access. 

George C. Stoney is a board 
member for Manhattan Neigh- 
borhood Network Public Access 
in New York City. 

,.. I'Ve GOT A PLAN R?R 





Access Channels and the 
California Recall of 2003 

by Ron Cooper 

EG access played a unique role in 
die historic 2003 gubernatorial 
■^cLyrecall election in California. Public 
access Channel 17, managed by Access 
Sacramento, invited all 135 gubernatorial 
candidates to submit a two-minute video 
of their positions. . .why they chose to run 
for governor of California. 

In mid-August, a letter was mailed to 
each candidate's campaign address listed 
by the California Secretaiy of State's 
office. The resulting 53-minute program 
was a compilation of tapes from 23 candi- 
dates, gradually built over the weeks lead- 
ing up to die October 7 election day. 

A non-scientific, subjective analysis of 
the 23 statements pointed out that the 
candidates were sincere in their reasons 
for running for governor. Some were 
extremely self-serving while others very 
idealistic. The overall impression was, 
however, not wacky or gratuitous. Most 
were interested citizens, tired of business 
as usual and motivated by the best inten- 
tions to join in the process of change 
rather than sitting on the sidelines as a 

Here's how Access Sacramento and 
the Alliance -West organized the effort. 

Many of the Alliance Western Region 
members are located in California and we 
were keenly aware of the need for more 
information about each candidate. An 
informed electorate is in the best interest 
of all California residents. In Sacramento 
County alone, Access Sacramento Chan- 
nel 17 serves more than 250,000 house- 

We invited each candidate to create a 
videotape lasting no more than two min- 
utes. The video ran in its entirety up to 
the two-minute mark, The videotape for- 

mat was limited to VHS, S-VHS or Mini- 
DV. The tape's content had to be accept- 
able to a general audience including 
young children. Each candidate accepted 
responsibility for the content by signing 
and submitting a "Statement of Compli- 
ance" form with each videotape. 

Access Sacramento received the video 
statements, assembled them in the order 
they were received, and cablecast them 
weekly, free of charge, throughout Sacra- 
mento County. 

We created an incentive to submit 
early because the quicker the tape was 
submitted, the greater the playback 
opportunity. The program for each Satur- 
day playback was compiled from those 
candidate videotapes received by the 
Wednesday prior to that Saturday. Tapes 
received after Wednesday were added to 
the following Saturday playback. The last 
playback date was October 4, 2003. 

Access Sacramento made the tape 
available to other community access cen- 
ters throughout California. Notice was 
sent via email to the Alliance-West mem- 
ber organizations. The communities of 
Santa Cruz, Davis and Mendocino County 
ran the tapes. In addition, candidates 
were invited to submit their video state- 
ment to any public access organization in 
the State and were provided the Alliance- 
West website as a resource. 

The entire process went smoothly and 
offered another example of how PEG 
access provides a unique opportunity for 
information sharing not found in com- 
mercial television. 

Ron Cooper is executive director of Access 
Sacramento. Contact him at 916.456.8600, 
ext. 112, or, 

Davis Community 
Televison Steps Up 
When the Major 
Media Won't 

by Autumn Labbe-Renault 

hings heated up in Davis, Califor- 
: nia during spring 2003 when alle- 
gations of racism, bigotry and 
bullying in our local schools fueled wide- 
spread outrage and a series of communi- 
ty meetings. 

Davis is situated 12 miles west of the 
state capitol of Sacramento which is also 
the nearest major media market. What 
makes headlines in our city of 64,000 typ- 
ically doesn't make the five o'clock news. 
The network stations in Sacramento 
largely ignored the Davis school news 
and sensationalized what they did men- 
tion. Meanwhile, parents, students and 
school administrators in Davis rolled up 
their sleeves and jumped into the fray. 

Davis Community Television (DCTV), 
the local public access channel, stepped 
up to the plate in two ways. First, we pro- 
vided gavel-to-gavel coverage of a series 
of public hearings, during which students 
testified about their experiences. The 
tapes aired on our channel and were 
made available for checkout at our local 
public library. 

Second, our staff launched a new 
series called Davis Matters: Issu£S in Per- 
spective. Each quarter, we choose two 
important community topics and devote 
three half-hour studio shows to each 

The most compelling segment (and 
the one we received much feedback on) 
featured student leaders horn the middle 
and high schools speaking out about the 
problems at their schools as they viewed 

It's worth noting that in addition to 
facilitating volunteer programming, our 
organization leans heavily in the direc- 
tion of choosing topics and producing 
content, because that's what our commu- 
nity demands from us. 

To be able to offer the youths' per- 
spective, free from filtering or gatekeep- 
ers, is something access offers that the 
networks don't-or won't. 

Autumn Labbe-Renault is director of 
operations at DCTV in Davis, CA. She can be 
contacted al 


"Congress must send the agency a clear bipartisan message — the 
airwaves belong to the American people, not to you and not to a 
small group of media elites. The FCC must be forced to address the 
concerns of the American people." 

-Barbara Boxer (D-CA),fiom Congressional Testimony 
during consideration ofSJ Resolution 1 7 

Worcester Station Offers Voice to Community 

by Mauro DePasquale 

n the community of Worcester, 
Massachusetts, WCCA TV provides 
%S the community with a local voice 
not found in the commercial media. The 
ability of community members to com- 
municate with each other has had a pro- 
found impact on many occasions. 

Two years ago, an issue was on the 
baJlot about whether or not to add fluo- 
ride to the city's drinking water. Propo- 
nents, mostly backed by the local med- 
ical industry, invested thousands of dol- 
lars to persuade voters to support the 
addition of fluoride into local water 
reservoirs. Proponents ran an extensive 
print media and commercial television 
campaign. Opponents ran a grassroots 
campaign, with no industry funding, to 
oppose the ballot measure. With little 
money to mount a media campaign, 
opponents utilized Worcester's public 
access television station, WCCA TV 13 by 
organizing and producing a number of 
talk programs and lectures. Today, 
Worcester's water does not have fluoride 
added to it. 

When Worcester tragically lost six 
firefighters on December 3, 1999, in a 
warehouse fire, the entire community 
along with over 35,000 firefighters world- 
wide and the President of the United 
States, came together to pay tribute to 
the six heroes. WCCA TV 13 volunteers, in 
a collaborative partnership with scores of 
individuals and groups, produced the 
documentary Surrounded byLove-A 
Community Reflects. This documentary 
did not focus on the tragic imagery of 
that disastrous event portrayed by most 
of the mainstream media. Rather, it 
focused on the voices and feelings of 
those impacted by that monumental 
loss. The documentary played a humble 
role in beginning a healing process for 
the entire city. Former Mayor Mariano 
said of the work, "This video... helped 
capture the depth of our respect and 
admiration for our fallen heroes and 
their families." Congressman Jim McGov- 
ern announced that the video was "a 
powerful and heartfelt tribute.. it cap- 
tures the spirit of love and support." 
Today the program is used to help raise 
funds for our focal firefighters' equip- 

ment fund. 

We are especially proud of two 
community-produced news programs 
Community Vision (English news 
magazine) and Worcester Informative 
(Spanish news magazine). Bodi 
programs bring a unique spin 
to the traditional news format 
They utilize the community- 
at-large to participate in the 
news gathering and as news 
correspondents. A diversity of 
various organizations and 
individuals have an opportu- 
nity to communicate their 
news, their events and their 
stories each week, and 
we get many apprecia- 
tive calls from viewers. 
This process encour- 
ages broad based par- 
ticipation in the pro- 
duction of local news 
and information. 

Mauro DePasquale is 
executive director of 
WCCA TV 13 in Worcester, 
MA. He can he contacted 
at 508.755.1380 or 

ded by Love 



Technology Centers: Catalysts 
for Community Change 

by Stephen Davies and Andrew Wiley- 
Schwartz, Project for Public Spaces, Dr. 
Randal D. Pinkett, BCT Partners, Profes- 
sor Lisa Servon, New School University 

/""TJhs article summarizes the findings 
-■ ' from our exploratory research into 
how community technology cen- 
ters (CTCs) could function more effective- 
ly as public spaces and as forces for posi- 
tive social change at the community level. 
In understanding the dynamics of their 
work at present, we hope to inform com- 
munity technology researchers, practi- 
tioners, and funders as to the ways in 
which the movement can leverage its 
accomplishments of the past in order to 
serve communities more broadly as it 
looks toward the future. 

We initiated this research, with fund- 
ing and direction from the Ford Founda- 
tion, in order to assess the situation in 
which CTCs currently find themselves and 
make recommendations regarding 
whether and how CTCs could be support- 
ed to take on broader community agen- 
das. The primary assumption driving this 
work was that CTCs — most of which are 
located in disadvantaged neighborhoods 
with rapidly changing demographics— are 
important not only because of their spe- 
cific digital divide work, but also because 
they act as key public spaces in areas 
where there is a dearth of such communi- 
ty places. We also hypothesized that there 
was a gap between the community devel- 
opment and community technology 
fields, and that this new perspective 
would help to bridge this gap, enabling 
greater efficiency and effectiveness on 
both the community technology and com- 
munity development fields. Through this 
research, our goals were to: 

A Understand the extent to which 
CTCs already think of themselves and act 
as public spaces in the communities they 

A Investigate perceptions of a gap 
between community development and 
community technology work; 

▲ Explore the ways in which CTCs, as 
public spaces, can catalyze broader posi- 
tive community change and the strategies 
they are employing to do so; 

A Identify the 
characteristics of 
CTCs that are most 
amenable to carrying 
out this kind of work; 

A Discern what 
specific kinds of sup- 
port CTCs require in 
order to do this kind 
of work; and 

A Make recom- 
mendations regarding 
actions CTCs can take, and that funders 
can use to establish priorities for CTCs, 

In order to carry out this agenda, we 
conducted several research tasks, includ- 
ing literature review, stakeholder focus 
groups, site visits, surveys and interviews. 

As a result of this research, we believe 
that funders can play a key role by seeding 
efforts to create important synergies 
between public space, community devel- 
opment and community technology as 
illustrated in Figure 1, Figure 2 and Figure 
3. Figure 1 shows some of the elements of 
great public spaces. 

Figure 2 shows the mutual learning 
that can come from examining and build- 
ing upon the target areas currently shared 
by both the community technology and 
community development movements. 
Given that these two movements are 

Figure 1: Elements, of Great Places 

entrenched in their 
own spheres, funders 
can create these 
spaces and help to 
implement the learn- 
ing that results. 

Figure 3 [on 
following page] illus- 
trates some of the 
issues that CTCs can 
work to impact, both 
by creating positive opportunities and 
helping to rid neighborhoods of problems, 
by relying on the contributions of other 
community partners and clients, as well 
as staff. 

Based on these recommendations, we 
propose a joint process involving two pri- 
mary activities: 

A Planning and implementation grant 
process that would allow leading-edge 
CTCs to build a strategic plan, identify 
partnerships, and begin to build capacity 
in order to implement change at this level. 

A Convening Community Technology 
and Community Development leaders on 
an ongoing basis to discuss and evaluate 
the efficacy of further research and fund- 
ing into the community technology/ com- 

See Technology, page 34 

Developing a New Field of Inquiry 


10 years 

Workforce Development 


Youth Development 



30 years 


Figure 2: Synergies Between Community Development and Community Technology 


Off the Shelf 

Media Ownership and 
Democracy in the Digital 
Information Age 

The Center for Internet and 
Society at Stanford Law School 
recently released Dr, Mark 
Cooper's new book Media 
Ownership and Democracy in 
the Digital information Age: 
Promoting Diversity with First 
Amendment Principles and 
Market Structure Analysis. 

"The future of America's 
media is up for grabs. Who will 
control it and for what purpos- 
es? With laser-like focus, Mark 
Cooper analyzes the growing 
threat to media democracy. 
Anyone interested in the future 
of the nation's media ought to 
read this illuminating book," 
FCC Commissioner, the Honor- 
able Michael J. Copps com- 

Dr. Cooper's comprehen- 
sive analysis of media owner- 
ship in America at the start of 
the twenty- first century com- 
bines a detailed review of First 
Amendment jurisprudence 
with rigorous economic analy- 
sis to demonstrate the continu- 
ing need for structural limits on 
media ownership to promote 
democratic discourse in Ameri- 
ca. Based on the analysis, it 
presents a thorough critique of 
the FCC proposals to virtually 
eliminate all limits on media 

The book is available in 
paper copies or for electronic 
download at no charge under a 
Creative Commons License at 
logs/ cooper/ archives/media- 

Cooper's 2002 book, Cable 
Mergers and Monopolies: Mar- 
ket Power in Digital Media and 
Communications Networks, is 
also available under a Creative 
Commons license at 
h ttp : / / cyb erlaw. b 
logs/ cooper/ archives/ Cablejn 

Foul Ball 

Jim Bouton's recent, self- 
published book provides a real- 
life story about concentration 
of media ownership and its 
impact from an unlikely writer, 
a baseball pitcher from the 
1 960s. The book's intrigue is 
created from how Bouton's 
quest to save a historic baseball 
stadium in Pittsfield, Massa- 
chusetts— Wahconah Park for 
you baseball aficionados — 
turns out to be a startling com- 
mentary on media concentra- 
tion. From the only local daily 
newspaper's conflict of interest 
to corporate control of the pub- 
lishing industry (the reason the , 
book is self published) , Bouton 
weaves an irresistible story 
without losing his sense of out- 
rage or his sense of humor. 

Foul Ball is available is 

-Julie S. Omelchuck 

The Victorian Internet: 
The Remarkable Story or 
the Telegraph and the 
Nineteenth Century's 
On-Line Pioneers 

This quick- read history 
book by Tom Standage takes us 
back to the future where the 
invention of the electronic tele- 
graph heralds a day of global 
peace, commerce, education 
and love affairs. After thou- 
sands of years of communica- 
tion never echpsing the speed 
of a fast horse or nearby reflect- 
ing mirror, the ability to tap out 
dots and dashes that formed 
words a world away was truly 
magical. As you can imagine 
the promises were bold and so 
were the characters who made 
them. By 1865, wires criss- 
crossed the globe, made many 
millionaires, and left some with 
pony express relay stations. 
This book is a great snapshot of 
the promise and peril of tech- 
nology. The lessons are more 
valid today than ever. 

- Dirk Koning 

CTC as a 
for Community 

Figure 3: CTCs 
as Catalysts for Com 
munity Change 

Technology, from pag 


munity development/public space connection. 

The planning and implementation process would enable par- 
ticipating CTCs to assume tasks such as the following: 

A Foster an orientation that is broad enough to encompass a 
community development agenda, for example, via asset mapping 
and place analysis. 

A Solicit resident involvement in identifying, understanding 
and addressing community issues. 

▲ Identify ways to make the center more visible, accessible 
and inviting and devise ways to convert participants' energy and 
interest into meaningful collective action. 

A Enhance CTCs ability to manage supply and demand for 
their services. 

A Partner with other community organizations or coordinate 
with other internal service delivery entities. 

A Develop sufficient capacity to undertake a community 
development agenda. 

The full report can be downloaded at: 

www. bclpartners. com/comm_ tech. htm 

Project for Public Spaces, Inc. (PPS), a nonprofit founded in 1975, 
has helped over 1,000 communities improve their public spaces. PPS's 
work on design and management of public space is based on commu- 
nity-driven processes. PPS's activities include, among others research 
and advocacy programs, publications, training programs, a database of 
success stories, and an awards program designed to highlight the most 
successful public places in the world, 

BCT Partners is a management, technology and policy consulting 
firm that works with government agencies, corporations, nonprofit 
organizations, educational institutions and foundations to improve 
organizational effectiveness and support strategies for change. An 
expert in the strategic use of technology, Dr. Pinkett is a graduate of the 
MIT Media Laboratory where his doctoral dissertation focused on the 
role of community technology for the purpose of community in low- 
income communities. Dr. Pinkett holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering 
from Rutgers University, M.S. in Computer Science from the University 
of Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar, joint M.S. in Electrical Engi- 
neering MBA degrees from MIT, and Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences 
from the MIT Media Laboratory, 

Lisa J. Servon is associate professor of Urban Policy and acting 
director of the Community Development Research Center (CDRC) at 
theMilano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy at New 
School University. Servon is a leading community development scholar 
whose work has focused on microenterprise development, capacity- 
building strategies for community-based organizations, and the digital 
divide, www. 


Democracy At Risk 

A Free and Independent Press Gives Voice to the People 

by Wade Henderson and Frank A. Blethen 

hen most of us watch TV, listen 
to the radio, or read newspapers 
/ / or magazines, we don't realize 
that most of what we see and hear is 
owned and controlled by a small handful 
of powerful, international media con- 
glomerates. And, too few of us take the 
time lo ask — Is all this power over Ameri- 
ca's journalism and communications 
good for a free, democratic society? 

The founders of our country clearly 
recognized the dangers to democracy of 
concentrating economic or political 
power in too few hands. From Adam 
Smith to Thomas Jefferson, from Supreme 
Court Justice Louis Brandeis to Senator 
Estes Kefauver — all have warned us of 
what Jefferson called "the battle between 
rapacious capitalism and democracy." 

In the last two decades, we have seen 
a massive disinvestment in news and 
journalism by the corporate owners of 
our newspapers and media. And the loss 
of the independent journalistic voices 
that used to connect our nation, serve our 
local communities and provide the foun- 
dation for our democracy. 

Our media have been transformed 
from independent journalism organiza- 
tions to financial cogs in the immense 
portfolios of monopolistic public compa- 
nies and mega-chains — NewsCorp, AOL 
Time Warner, Liberty Media, to name a 

There are only about 280 independent 
newspapers left in the United States and 
most of them are in small communities. A 
small handful of corporations now con- 
trol most of our newspapers, TV stations, 
radio stations, cable outlets and satellite 

The current battleground in the fight 
for democracy is the Federal Communi- 
cations Commission. 

Behind closed doors and without 
press examination or scrutiny, the major 
media company CEOs and their lobbyists 
have turned the FCC into their hand- 
maiden for extending their control in 
pursuit of greater stock prices and short- 
term profit. 

We have seen the disaster in radio 

that followed the 1996 Telecommunica- 
tions Act. If the FCC is allowed to relax 
the rest of its media concentration rules, 
Clear Channel Communications and its 
1,200 radio stations give us a peak at our 
bleak future. 

When it comes to FCC rules and con- 
centration of media ownership, we are 
indeed in a battle for democracy's sur- 
vival versus rapacious capitalism. 

The two of us became acquainted a 
decade ago through our shared passion 
for an inclusive, just and open America. 

As watchdogs for social justice and 
democracy, each in our own way, it has 
become clear to us that it is not in the 
self-interest of the large media compa- 
nies to tell this story and, consequently, 
few citizens are aware of the threat to our 
free press. Yet, in spite of suppression by 
big media, the story is beginning to be 
told by a grassroots movement sweeping 
the country. More and more citizens are 
starting to understand the grave situation 
we are in. 

And we are seeing Congress respond. 
Several members are beginning to under- 
stand the unique threat posed by giant 
media companies when government fails 
to protect independence of media and 
vigorous competition. 

A bipartisan majority of the Senate 
Commerce Committee, led by Senators 
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Byron D or- 
gan (D-ND), sent a strong letter to the 
FCC calling for public hearings. 

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) , Herb 
Kohl (D-WI) and Mike DeWine (R-OH), 
through their committee and sub-com- 
mittee leadership roles, continue to 
explore, challenge and raise critical 

Every American needs to be a warrior 
for democracy. Every American needs to 
speak up loud and often on this issue. In 
the finest of American traditions, we urge 
all citizens to call upon Congress to tell 
the FCC to cease and desist — to stand up 
to corporate power, to stand up for 
democracy by preventing further media 

America has survived many crises in 
its young history. We believe we will sur- 
vive this crisis too, but only if we wake up 
and step up quickly to defend the under- 
pinning of our democracy: a free and 
independent press that gives voice to the 
people of this country. 

Wade Henderson is executive director of 
the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights 
and Frank Blethen is publisher and chief 
executive officer o/The Seattle Times. 

1U* Matrix ww?eo!,. 

Facfl is software designed just for media access 
centers, addressinq their wide range of needs 
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system interfaces to Synergy, Leightronix, 
Sundance and others. Highly automated and fully 
integrated, this program makes all the information 
available throughout your organization to every 
staff member in real time. 

After more than twelve years of development 
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across the country, Facfl has evolved into the 
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a media access center. Facil is already serving over 
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For more information or questions about Facil 
call Access Tucson at 520.624.9833. 

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and take the Facil on-line tour. ^ 

National Spotlight on Our Local Fight 

Note: Senator Snowe wrote this article 
for cmr in November 2003, Senator Snowe 
was unsuccessful in pushing for a rollback 
to the 35 percent ownership limit. In Janu- 
ary 2004, the Senate passed legislation to 
increase the broadcast media ownership 
cap to 39 percent. For more information 
on this activity, please visit the Alliance's 
monthly publication Public Policy Update 
a t www.allian cecm. org. 

by Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) 

deal media has garnered national 
attention in the recent months — 
though they are not in the headlines 
wd, as advocates and beneficiaries of 
community outlets, would prefer. The 
future of local, independent media 
sources is the focus of extensive debate — 
in community centers, the boardrooms 
of media conglomerates, and the hearing 
rooms in the United States' Senate. And 
what is at stake is no less than the free- 
doms and benefits of diversity, localism 
and community "voices." 

In June, 2003, the federal Communi- 
cations Commission issued new media 
ownership rules relaxing the requirements 
governing national television ownership, 
local television ownership and cross- 
media limits. Ignoring the urging of Con- 
gressional leaders — with Senators Ted 
Stevens (R-Alaska), Fritz Rollings (D-SC) 
and myself taking the lead — and the 
500,000 emails and postcards the FCC 
received, Chairman Michael Powell and 
the Commission voted 3-2 in favor of 
rules that would allow media conglomer- 
ates to own local affiliates that broadcast 
to 45 percent of the national audience. 
And unfortunately, the changes do not 
end there. 

The proposed new media Ownership 
rules would permit a corporation to own 
two television stations within a market of 
five or more stations, or three television 
stations in a market of more than 18 sta- 
tions. The FCC would also consider, on a 
case-by-case basis, a corporation's 
request to own two of the top-four rated 
stations within a market of 11 television 
stations of fewer. That would include 
dozens of markets, including the Port- 
land, Maine market, the largest in my 
home state. But, the changes did not end 


P" : . 




1 «i| ^ 

:-r';~;.V: ; :l^-'- : - yy- '.|F"y ; - : 


With that June vote, the FCC erased 
decades-old bans that prevented cross- 
media ownership of newspaper/ broad- 
cast entities and radio/television entities. 
The FCC replaced those bans with a fluid 
formula based on the number of outlets 
in the market. While the FCC sought to 
"revise media regulations so that media 
ownership rules promote competition" as 
stated within the Commission's strategic 
plan, lawmakers and concerned commu- 
nities recognized the significance of the 
June vote for what it truly does — it 
deprives the public access to a diversity 
of choices, limits our freedom of expres- 
sion and curtails the public discourse. At 
its core, the 3-2 vote took decisive aim at 
the very tenets of freedom and democra- 
cy our nation is built on. 

I, with the overwhelming support of 
my colleagues in the Senate, have been 
unwavering in conveying our disapproval 
of the new media ownership rules to 
Chairman Powell and the FCC members. 
We rightly argue that the level of media 
concentration proposed by the FCC — 
allowing media mergers in over 150 mar- 
kets representing 98 percent of the Amer- 
ican population, and according to some 
reports, creating a scenario where five 
companies or fewer could control about 
60 percent of television households in 
just the next few years — is disastrous for 
the survival of diversity, localism and 

As part of the Senate Commerce 

Committee, we have held eight hearings 
since June to comprehensively scrutinize 
the adopted rules and reinforce the far- 
reaching implications of these drastic 
changes to our nation's and our commu- 
nity's media ownership regulations. In 
fact, the Committee has held more public 
hearings on the issue than the FCC held 
prior to accepting the new media owner- 
ship rules. One of the greatest flaws of 
the FCC has been its lack of initiative to 
engage local communities and listen to 
the arguments and concerns of local 
individuals — the same local individuals 
who benefit from and celebrate their 
opportunity to express their view's and 
opinions through community publica- 
tions and local television programming. 
Only now is the FCC making those 
efforts, and I am pleased that the Com- 
mission has scheduled sis public hear- 
ings of its localism task force in commu- 
nities across the country, including Port- 
land, Maine. 

But meeting is just a beginning. In the 
Senate, the passage of a joint resolution 
of which 1 co-sponsored demonstrates 
bipartisan efforts to halt the determina- 
tion of the FCC to deregulate the indus- 
try. We continue to argue that diversity in 
the marketplace of ideas and information 
must not be stifled, nor should commu- 
nity "voices" be consolidated in the 
hands and voices of the powerful few 7 
media moguls. Additionally, 1 have 
offered an amendment to "The Preserva- 
tion of Localism, Program Diversity, and 
Competition in Television Service Act," 
which would effectively restore the cross- 
ownership ban to its pre-June 2 stan- 
dards. The legislation was approved by 
the full Senate Commerce Committee 
and is awaiting debate on the Senate 

The issue of media ownership goes to 
the heart of our democracy and the crux 
of the way in which we form our opin- 
ions on other issues of critical impor- 
tance. We must not allow the multiplicity 
of ideas, the diversity of our opinions, 
and the core of our Constitutional free- 
doms be diluted for the wealth of a few. 
With each local broadcast and each 
weekly publication, we celebrate the 

See Snowe, page 39 


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The Alliance's Public Policy Committee 
Works to Ensure Access to Electronic Media 

by Greg Epler Wood 

he publisher of the journal you're 
^■"jf reading is an alliance of several 
v_y^ thousand people attempting to 
support and sustain community media in 
the face of incredible odds. A bookmaker 
would shudder looking at the venues into 
which the Alliance often fearlessly throws 
Its hat— the U.S. Congress, the Oval 
Office, the FCC, state legislatures, and the 
court system from local districts to the 
U.S. Supreme Court. 

The venues where our battles are 
played out aren't the only way to measure 
the enormity of our mission: we also tack- 
le some of the most complex telecommu- 
nications issues, and enter debates with 
some of the most powerful industries in 
the world. 

And why do we do this? Because in 
order for democracy to flourish, people 
must be active participants in their gov- 
ernment, educated to think critically, and 
be able to freely express themselves. And 
to advance these democratic ideals, we 
must work both to ensure that people 
have access to electronic media, as well 
as to promote effective communication 
through community uses of media. 

But when there are bills in Congress 
that threaten these ideals or the means to 
reaching these ideals, or when we 
encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant 
bureaucrat that tries to quiet the words of 
a community media speaker, we step in 
to meet the challenge, often partnering 
with other groups that have similar values 
and missions. 

Focusing for the moment on the 
national level, this is what we've done 
with a number of current issues: Voice- 
over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), taxation of 
the Internet, cable modem classification 
and media ownership consolidation. 
Each issue in its own way affects the 
in legrity of the fabric that makes up our 
national information infrastructure. With- 
out someone like the Alliance to strength- 
en the weave with the democratic free 
speech rights of the individual, the fabric 
will fail under the weight of its own self- 

VoIP. In a letter to the FCC, we joined 
with the National League of Cities (NIC), 

the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), 
the International Municipal Lawyers 
Association (IMLA), the National Associa- 
tion of Counties (NACo), and the National 
Association of Telecommunications Offi- 
cers and Advisors (NATOA) to request that 
the Commission slow down and consider 
holistically how regulation and taxation of 
VoIP would effect local [-Nets and other 
wired infrastructure that may eventually 
carry VoIP signals. The control of the local 
municipality's ability to regulate its own 
public rights-of-way (PROW) is at issue 

We are also fighting the possible taxa- 
tion of the Internet (currently embodied 
in Senate Bill 150), and again the concern 
is that a local authority's ability to regu- 
late its own PROW will be eroded by fed- 
eral rules that ignore this basic principle. 
Local revenues derived from compensa- 
tion for use of local PROW assists many 
local franchising authorities around the 
U.S. to fund PEG access activities. 

Cable modem classification is 
another area where the federal govern- 
ment and most segments of the telecom- 
munications industry are attempting to 
minimize local authority. Here, the battle 
is being waged in courts against the FCC's 
determination that cable modem is an 
"information service" and thus not sub- 
ject to local, state or federal regulation. 
Although digital Internet signals are being 
carried side-by- side with digital television 
signals over the same cable television line 
that uses public rights-of-way, the FCC 
(and the cable industry) claims that fran- 

chise fees don't need to be collected on 
cable modem revenues. We have put lots 
of time (some staff, some pro bono legal) 
and member-contributed dollars into the 
9th Circuit Court of Appeals case that will 
soon reconsider this issue (this time 
before 1 1 judges, or, in legal terms, en 
banc) . 

Whether the argument involves what's 
happening in the wires above and under 
our streets (as it is in these three 
instances), or in the air we breath (as it is 
with broadcast media ownership consoli- 
dation), the Alliance is committed to 
ensuring n on -commercial public access 
to our common space is protected. 

If you want to read more about these 
and other current issues, please go to the 
public affairs section of the Alliance web- 
site: While there, 
also take some time to browse the Leg- 
islative Action Center — a powerful, high- 
ly-functional advocacy tool that the 
Alliance has made available to the general 
public, and which has been used heavily 
in the fight against media consolidation. 

Please re-read the third paragraph of 
this article: it is the Alliance's mission 
statement. When you are asked to con- 
tribu te to our public policy efforts, please 
keep it in mind, and give generously. 

Greg Epler Wood is an independent con- 
sultant in public interest telecommunica- 
tions policy and implementation, and the 
chair of the Alliance's Public Policy Commit- 
tee. He has been an active member of the 
Alliance since 1979 and may be reached at 
GregUW@Sover. net 


> from page 37 

"local view" of our communities. We must not surrender the unique qualities and 
local personalities that make our communities charming and distinct. While the 
media ownership debate continues into the near future — on the Senate floor, in 
the federal judicial system, and within town meetings and individual homes — we 
must not lose sight that this debate is a fight for local communities — from Port- 
land, Maine to Spokane, Washington, and the hundreds of places in between. 

Senator Olympia } Snowe (R-ME) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, where she 
became only the second woman in history to represent the state of Maine in. the Senate. 
For more information or to contact Senator Snowe, please visit her website at 


It's Coming! 

July 7-10, 2004 
Tampa, Florida 

Alliance for 
Community Media 
Conference £t 
Trade Show 

Communications Democracy 

For more than 15 years, the Alliance for Communications Democracy has been fighting to preserve and 
strengthen access. Though the odds against us have been high, and the mega-media, corporate foes well- 
heeled and powerful, time and again we've won in the courts. We can't continue this critical work without 
your support. With the ramifications of the 1996 Telecommunications Act still manifesting themselves, and 
new legislation on the horizon, we must be vigilant if we are to prevail and preserve democratic communi- 
cations, if not us, who? If not now, when? Please join the Alliance for Communications Democracy today! 

Become an Alliance Subscriber for $350/year and receive detailed reports on current 
court cases threatening access, pertinent historical case citations, and other Alliance for 
Communications Democracy activities. 

■ • Voting membership open to nonprofit access operations for an annua! contribution of $3,000. 
- • Assoicate, Supporter and Subscriber memberships available to organizations and individuals at 
the following levels: 

Alliance Associate $2500 - copies of ail briefs and reports. 
Alliance Supporter $500 - copies of all reports and enclosures. 
■ Alliance Subscriber $350 - copies of all reports. 

Direct membership inquiries to ACD Treasurer Rob Brading, Multnomah Community Television, 
26000 SE Stark St., Gresham, OR 97038, telephone 503.667.7636, or email at 


A Mouse Roars in Oregon 

The Public Good vs. Corporate Interests Goes on Trial 

by Sue Diciple 

Open Access— The Stage is Set 

/ j'Was early summer 1998 in Port- 
land, Oregon. Along with my fellow 
citizen- appointees to the Mt. Hood 
Cable Regulatory Commission, I greeted 
an announcement with enthusiasm: as a ! 
benefit of approving our cable franchise 
transfer from TCI to AT&T, the new oper- 
ator would implement cable modem 
service in our area. 

As dedicated, public-spirited volun- 
teers, we were foregoing evening barbe- 
qucs and bike rides to roll up our sleeves 
and dig into the tedium of legal and audit 
documents and contract language. Litde 
did we realize that the simple announce- 
ment was actually the first volley in a bat- 
tle that would pit the public good against 
corporate interests, fracture the commu- 
nications industry into opposing camps, 
and cast national policies and predilec- 
tions in opposition to local interests and 
values. Even less did we realize that we 
would frame the debate on an issue of 
such technological and policy import 
that it would resonate into the 21st cen- 
tury. That issue has come to be known as 
"open access." For a variety of reasons, 1 
believe that the issue may not have been 
framed at all without the mix of circum- 
stances that are unique to "who we are" 
in Oregon. 

It was a lovely summer night when, 
wistfully, the Commission took public 
testimony on the terms of the transfer. 
Public meetings on cable issues generally 
do not excite a lot of interest, but on this 
evening the meeting was well attended 
by the CEOs and managers of local and 
regional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
and their customers. They challenged the 
Commission: What would be required of 
the cable operator with regard to opening 
its system to competing ISPs? Phone 
companies were required, under a differ- 
ent regulatory framework, to accommo- 
date competing ISPs on their DSL sys- 
terns. But the cable companies were clos- 
ing their networks to all but their own 
proprietary ISPs. Would the Commission 

iaCfe loc ^ ca£s= e cas 


(!«' partners ATST Corp 
Tcki-CommiinfcjiUoiuE trie. 


use its local 

franchising authority to require that 
AT&T adopt an open access policy, as a 
condition of approving the transfer? 
Eight Citizens Consider the issues 

Over the course of that summer, eight 
citizen commissioners from diverse 
walks of life and political perspectives 
examined these questions. Our analysis 
took four critical principles into consid- 

The First Amendment. While some 
commissioners were more astute about 
technology than others, we had all used 
search engines, and we knew that the 
portal used to access the interne! had an 
impact on content. We had also heard 
stories about attempts to access Powell's 
Books, our beloved local bookstore-won- 
derland, -via a proprietary ISP and the 
search yielded the website for a national 
book chain that w r as a "corporate part- 
ner" of the ISP. We believed that a closed 
access environment would hamper 
unfettered access to information, and as 
such posed a profound First Amendment 

The importance of competition. 

While it may not be apparent to those liv- 
ing and working in the urban centers 
where telecommunications policy is 

made, those of us living in states with 
rural populations are acutely aware that 
the digital divide is largely an issue of 
a geography. Oregon is a state where the 
1 majority of the land mass is profound- 
ly ly rural, and in 1998 there was local 
dial-up internet access in those areas 
only because scrappy regional ISPs 
had been willing to aggregate 
small numbers of users 
and provide service in 
communities to which 
the big providers had 
turned their backs, alleg- 
ing "no business case." 
Could we, with our lever- 
age as a major market, 
contribute to the extinc- 
tion of ISP competition? 
We didn't think so. 

Local control. Cable 
was "sold" to communities 
as a technology that would provide local 
benefits and be regulated locally. We 
asked our attorney, "Is it within our regu- 
latory authority' to require open access?" 
Our attorney said, "Yes." Since then, vari- 
ous courts have debated whether cable 
modem service is a "telecommunications 
service," an "information service," or a 
"cable service." In 1998, however, all par- 
ties, including the cable companies, 
accepted the definition of cable modem 
as a "cable service," and there had been 
no legal finding thai, under the cable 
service definition, we would have been 
outside our purview in requiring open 
access as a condition of transfer. 

A community tradition of public 
involvement. Our five cities and the 
county' had consolidated resources for 
cable regulation and that arrangement 
provided a robust level of staff resources 
for regulatory functions. As a result, our 
Commission is supported by staff mem- 
bers who are national leaders in the field 
of public interest communications and 
were able to take on the heavy workload 
in support of our position. In keeping 

See MOUSe, page 43 



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Mouse, /, 

torn page 41 

with Oregon's tradition of public 
involvement, in whieh citizen vol- 
unteers oversee all aspects of 
civic life — from the state lottery, 
to police accountability, to beach 
clean-ups — the Mt. Hood Cable 
Regulatory Commission is 
entrusted with overseeing our 
cable franchises and the 
resources that result from it, 
including millions of dollars in 
annual franchise fees, a state-of- 
the-art institutional network (I- 
Net), two robust community 
access organizations and nearly 
$1 million in annual grant funds, 
There has been no major recom- 
mendation from the Commission 
that has not been supported by 
the elected bodies of our jurisdic- 
tions. We recommended support 
for open access, knowing that the 
cable company would be spoiling 
for a fight, but confident that our 
elected officials wotdd under- 
stand the important public inter- 
est issues at stake and support 
our stance. They did, and the rest 
is history. 

In its front-page coverage of 
the Commission's action in sup- 
port of open access, the Wall 
Street Journal called us "The 
Mouse That Roared." 


Sue Dieiple is the principal of a 
small consulting firm in Portland, 
Oregon with over 20 years of experi- 
ence in public involvement, com- 
munity needs assessment, organiza- 
tion development, and planning. An 
activist in the field of public interest 
telecommunications, she served as 
an Alliance for Community Media 
National Board member for six 
years and is chair of the Mt. Flood 
Cable Regulator,' Commission. 

by Dirk Koning and Amy Goodman 

I e doubt you've been reading article 
\. after article sounding a clarion call 
F against corporate media consolida- 
tion, for good reasons. But, as we choke on 
the alphabet soup of acronyms of nonprofits 
fighting the good fight for media democracy, 
access, reform and justice, we can't help but 
wonder if we shouldn't look at consolidating. 
Take a gander at Webster's definition (note 
example) of the word: 


Function: noun 

Date: fifteenth century 

1 : the act or process of consolidating : 
the state of being consolidated 

2 : the process of uniting : the quality or 
state of being united; specifically : the 
unification of two or more corporations 
by dissolution of existing ones and cre- 
ation of a single new corporation 

The process of uniting. The quality 
or state of being united. This part 
sounds pretty good. Let's just dream 
out loud for a minute. Assume the 
groups listed in the sidebar on the 
right consolidated, that's right, unit- 
ed. This coalition would boast a vast 
membership, carry phenomenal 
clout in Congress, generate millions 
in grants from diverse foundations, 
generate millions in donations from 
thousands of people, throw the most 
awesome national and regional conventions 
you've ever seen, draw big talent to events, 
influence vendors for product design and 
distribution, publish a meta website to write 
home about, create print, video and multi- 
media educational and promotion materials 
to rival the AARP and NRA, save thousands in 
staff and rental costs... etc, etc, etc. 

Pipe dream you say. Maybe not. Maybe 
we dream the dream a little and then wake 
up to the art of the possible. Let's say these 
groups united in the most logical of areas 
first. How about a united public policy pres- 
ence? A platform could be drafted that most 
of these groups could unite around. With the 
possibility of a Bush Administration through 
2008, you can bet your WMDs that a rewrite 
of the 1 996 Telecommunication Act will 
occur during those dark days. What better 
force to stand up to a Bush FCC and Republi- 
can House and Senate than a united front of 

media activists speaking with one voice and 
mobilizing thousands of constituents and 
millions of citizens? 

Another logical place to unite is at 
national conferences. Let's look to 2007 for 
the first united conference. Yes, we could 
have tracks and sessions dedicated to each 
specific group, but we could have tracks and 
sessions dedicated to the overlapping inter- 
ests and logical areas for further consolida- 
tion. Just the act of pulling off a joint confer- 
ence would force a certain amount of consol- 
idation (that may make or break the whole 

Another idea that has been knocked 
about by many folks from these groups is a 
planning summit. Secure some planning dol- 
lars to explore natural areas of consolidation 
and unite key leaders from these groups in a 
weekend retreat with professional facilitation 
to not only meet each other and socialize, 
but pick the low hanging fruit and develop 
some concrete steps toward logical con- 
solidation. It would be great to survey 
members of each group and other 
stakeholders to see what the general 
sentiment toward consolidation is. 
Our guess is the main concerns 
would be consistent across each 
group and we also would bet that — 
assuming those concerns are 
addressed — that most members 'in 
the streets' would endorse further con- 
solidation for the benefits accrued. 
Our challenge is great. Our enemies are 
formidable and growing through consolida- 
tion each moment. Our resources are 
stretched and finite. Our missions are similar. 
Our egos are large. Our budgets are small. 
Our desire to effect change is immense. Our 
resolve is unquestioned. What is holding us 
back from finding common ground and unit- 
ing around it? What is holding us back from 
burying some ego to insure survival? What is 
holding us back from tossing the acronyms 
into a stew to create a more fortified and ulti- 
mately nutritious mix for all? 

Consolidation — let's give it a whirl. 

Dirk Koning is executive director of the Com- 
munity Media Center in Grand Rapids, Michi- 
gan. Contact him at dirk@grcmc. org. Amy Good- 
man is a long-time media activist and journal- 
ist She currently hosts the daily news show 
Democracy Now! and has a book coming out this 
spring titled The Exception to the Rulers. 

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